(News Herald, The (Panama City, FL) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Apr. 19--Florida's Great Northwest released more details Friday from an analysis that spotlights four industries with the best prospects for strengthening the region's sustainable growth.
The Destin-based regional economic development organization hosted a focus group, one of five in the region, at the Bay Point Marriott on Friday for area business, civic and economic development leaders.
It contracted with nonprofit research firm SRI International last year to conduct the regional target industry analysis, which looked at 25 different business clusters throughout Northwest Florida and selected four target industries.
SRI recommended Northwest Florida focus on aerospace and defense, health sciences/human performance enhancement, renewable energy/environment, and transportation and logistics as regional target industries.
The firm also tagged information technology and research and engineering as two business clusters that could play a key part in supporting the four main target industries.
Al Wenstrand, Florida's Great Northwest's president, said his organization was looking at ways to bring wealth into the region through areas such as building the necessary human and physical infrastructure, taking care of existing businesses, new business attraction, and encouraging business and entreprenuership development.
"If you can keep those four things in balance, you can build a sustainable economy," Wenstrand said.
In its first round of analysis, SRI narrowed the list of industry clusters from 25 to six.
The firm looked at a variety of economic factors in determining target industries, including demonstrated high job and wage growth in the period between 2003-05, with the industry's average annual wages at least 10 percent above the prevailing regional wage of $31,000.
It also looked at market trends and the industries' roles in regional development, as well as relationships with other target clusters.
Matty Mathieson, director of SRI's Center for Science, Technology & Economic Development, said renewable energy's projected growth nationally is from a $55 billion industry in 2006 to a $227 billion one in 2016.
"It's not that huge, but boy, it's coming," Mathieson said.
He called Northwest Florida's plantation-style pine forests "a unique asset" and said the region's renewable energy opportunities fit in well with national initiatives and global trends.
Mathieson said the Green Circle Bio Energy wood pellet plant in Jackson County would be not only important to the renewable energy industry, but also impact the transportation and logistics industry with its use of roads, rail and Port Panama City to move and distribute the pellets.
"It just shows how you can combine a lot of your industry clusters," Mathieson said.
News of Green Circle's plant has attracted other renewable energyrelated companies, said Bill Stanton, executive director of the Jackson County Development Council.
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