New Charter Academy Coming to Panama City

The beach has been bustling, tourism has been up and the new airport has been performing better than expected the last couple years.  But, not much has been said about the old airport site and what activity was underway, lurking in the shadows.  We haven’t heard much in the last couple years, but it’s not because nothing has been happening – quite the contrary.  The savvy folks at St. Andrew Bay Land Company, regardless of their technical ownership status of the land, has been laying all the ground work to get the master planned community online in place of the old airport site.

The development of the old airport site.

Over the last couple years, the St. Andrew Bay Land Company (SABLC) has been quietly working to take possession of the land the old airport site was on.  If you remember, they were the ones that won the bid.  Their parent company, Leucadia, created the St. Andrew Bay Land Company in order to manage the development.  Working through a variety of complexities that come along with taking possession of an old airport site, they actually just closed in the last 60 days.

In a lunch meeting with Jacob Fish, with SABLC a few weeks back, he excitedly explained that they haven’t lost a beat and that the development was still on schedule for where it would be regardless if they had possession of the land.  He explained there are a variety of things they’ve been working on to get everything ready for development including some really neat advancements and improvements that have been helping from the state legislature, down.

Anyway, we owe you an update on what that development will entail, but that will happen on another day!

Details on the new Charter Academy that’s coming.

Concurrently with the new master planned community that is coming, the developer wanted to incorporate a high quality public school.

The University Academy will be a public K-5 charter school and will begin classes in August 2012 on the FSU Panama City campus.

“The University Academy will be focused on teaching that produces well rounded students who will be prepared to succeed in a rapidly evolving, connected world,” said academy founder and spokesperson, Kelly Forehand. “Naturally, the emphasis will be on the STEM curricula, but we believe it essential that students be equally strong in the areas of critical thinking, languages and the arts.”

A collaborative effort of Florida State University Panama City (FSU Panama City) and local community leaders to deliver innovative elementary education, The University Academy is founded on a strong comprehensive reading, expository writing and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curricula.

“This is one of the first and only schools in Florida where a public university provides the research-based curricula and teacher development and where the employees of the Academy are privately employed by the school board, giving optimal flexibility to the Academy and the teachers,” said Dr. Elizabeth Crowe, PhD, one of academy’s founders and a research faculty member at Florida State University. “This model ensures that the focus is on the success of the individual student, and that the student comes first. This will be a school where students can achieve their potential, regardless of background.”

Parents and Students Information Meeting

An information meeting will be held on Thursday, April 12, 2012 at the FSU Panama City Campus, Bayside Auditorium, located at 4750 Collegiate Drive, from 5:00 PM to 7:30 PM. A model classroom will be set up for parents and students to experience.

More information can be found at http://www.university-academy.org, by writing us at info@university-academy.org, or by calling (850) 215-0137. For statements or interviews, the media should contact Academy founder Jacob Fish at (850) 624-3055 or Jacob.Fish@university-academy.org.

New Airport Names New Executive Director

There has been some changes in management at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.  Former Executive Director Randy Curtis has been moved to a different role, Director of Special Projects and John Wheat was named the Executive Director.  This move came quickly with little fanfare and only but a little commotion from one of the board members who held the only dissenting vote – Andy McKenzie.  McKenzie’s quarrel with the swift action was that it was just that, too fast.

In the past, airport positions have been well publicized, accepted many resumes and have opened up discussion for the board in advance.  The hiring of Wheat was fast, not well discussed in public and actually slipped through in the board meeting without his name being mentioned.

The quick movements were justified by other board members by the time-sensitive negotiations the board was in with Southwest and Delta Airlines over future landing fees.  As of date, the airlines have not been happy with the pace of negotiations and the new appointments were expected to accelerate a final agreement.  Landing fees are a significant revenue generator for the airport.  Concurrent with the appointment of Wheat as the new executive director, both airlines and St. Joe gave their nod of approval of Wheat as well.

Another appointment was made as well: Parker McClellan as the Deputy Executive Director.

I bet you’re wondering how much all these guys make.  I know I sure was.  In an article recently released in the News Herald, the annual salaries were noted:  John Wheat, Executive Director, $135,000; Parker McClellan, Deputy Executive Director, $100,000; Randy Curtis, Director of Special Projects, $116,000.

Here is the full press release:

Panama City, Fla. (April 27, 2011) – The Airport Authority has named John Wheat as the executive director of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. As executive director, Wheat is responsible for leading the operational and strategic efforts of the Airport and reports to the Airport Authority Board of Directors. Wheat brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise in the aviation industry and most recently served as COO of the Tampa International Airport, where he was responsible for the organization’s finances and operations, as well as brings valued relationships with key partners.

The Airport Authority has also introduced a new organizational model for the Airport with a leadership team that is well-positioned to take the organization forward. This includes Parker McClellan as Deputy Executive Director and Randy Curtis as Director of Special Projects. McClellan, who most recently served as the acting director for the Airport, is now the Deputy Executive Director to ensure a comprehensive leadership team with all airport activity working through this position and up to the Executive Director. Curtis will play an important role in the closing of the “old airport”, as well as ensuring the airport maintains positive relationships with various state and federal agencies. His historical and institutional knowledge will be valuable to the upcoming work on behalf of this organization.

With the addition of John Wheat, the Northwest Florida Beaches International leadership team brings the vision, experience and relationships to best leverage one of the community’s greatest assets. This strategic leadership team is focused on driving the region’s economic vitality as they lead the first international airport to open in more than 10 years. The gateway to beautiful world-famous beaches, Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport boasts a plethora of convenient flights daily serviced by Southwest Airlines and Delta Airlines.

New Airport Pictures – NEVER BEFORE SEEN

You know how when you see project or construction renderings, the imagery always seems so polished, glossy and beautiful looking?  You always hope the final product will look just half as good as the original artist’s touch, but the real thing just never seems to be quite as beautiful.  Well, in the case of the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport – the exact opposite is true.  The final product, to me, looks even more beautiful than the original artist’s concepts.

Continue reading “New Airport Pictures – NEVER BEFORE SEEN”

Bay County Heart Ball – THIS FRIDAY

Break out your formal wear and red-carpet shoes because this Friday is the American Heart Association’s annual heart ball.  This year they decided to shake things up A LOT and move the ball to a private hangar in the General Aviation facility in the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

Check after the break for the deets.

Continue reading “Bay County Heart Ball – THIS FRIDAY”

New Airport Set to Triple Numbers 2011

This is the first article in a series that explores 2011 Tourism Predictions for Panama City Beach.

Spring is right around the corner, and along with the knowledge of the coming season, we’re finding that our town is divided into three parts. The Optimists, The Pessimists and The Realists.

At times, it looks as though the Realists Team and the Optimists Team are on the same page, leaving the Pessimists to bemoan, well – everything.

For the most part, the Panama City Beach community is fanning those beginning sparks of excitement, while remaining optimistically cautious, over the vast potential of the 2011 tourism season.

Instead of sitting around speculating any longer, we decided to check in with some of PCB’s seasoned pro’s, those business savvy locals, who’ve been through this whole tourism thing a time or two.

Continue reading “New Airport Set to Triple Numbers 2011”

Airport to Double Parking Lot Size

The new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport had record breaking numbers this past summer, despite local difficulties.  We had tons of traffic coming in, but we also had more traffic going out than we’ve ever seen here before.  In fact, the number of people going out far exceeded expectations, so much so that the parking that was developed was not sufficient and the airport was forced to open temporary parking adjacent to the existing parking lot.

Continue reading “Airport to Double Parking Lot Size”

New Airport STOMPS Old Airport Numbers [REPORT]

Northwest Florida International Airport is always a fun topic. Everyone loves to talk about it, read about it and quote words like “projected passenger travel” and “estimated” while throwing numbers around so fast, that even Superman is starting to look a little windburned.

While numbers and statistics are a necessary evil in the realm of progress, reports and city planning, I’m the kind of person who lives life in the blunt lane, so instead of telling me percentages, I need to know how these numbers translate into simple Good Move/Bad Move terms.

On the off chance, that you, too, might be this kind of person, let me translate the newest numbers from our lovely Northwest Florida International Airport.

Continue reading “New Airport STOMPS Old Airport Numbers [REPORT]”