July 2018

154 155 Gulf of Mexico.The area is a paradise for hunters, too,with plentiful deer,wild turkey, ducks, and small game. But most importantly,Holmes County is also a business-friendly community,welcoming new and expanding businesses to the area.The current eco- nomic drivers for the county are the medical field and a Department of Corrections facility.There are five small, precision machine shops as well. But all of that is about to change. “Highway 79 from the Alabama line to the Pana- ma City Beaches has been in the process of being four-laned all the way to the beach and it crosses our county,” says Thomas. “It should be completed in the next four months.They have been working on that for about three years, and since it has gotten well into construction,we have start- ed getting a lot of inquiries from folks who want to put businesses along the corridor. HOLMES COUNTY, FLORIDA RAYMON THOMAS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE HOLMES COUNTY DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION POPULATION: GEOGRAPHIC AREA: MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME: MEDIAN HOUSING VALUE: UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: COMMERCIAL TAX RATE: QUICK FACTS | HOLMES COUNTY 19,700 482 square miles $37,437 $90,700.00 4.3% 16.6% And so, being a rural county and having very limited resources,we wanted to do something that would be unique, so we looked around and decided on an ‘Eco-Industrial Park.’” “As we spent some time looking into it,we real- ized that it fit our area better than anything else,” Thomas continues.“Our park will be based on sustainability.The companies that we are marketing to will be interested in sustainability, their products will be for sustainability, and the parkmembers will work in cooperation with each other so that there will be no landfill debris; it will all be recycled within the park or marketed as a product that can be used from outside the park.” The Holmes County Development Commission is a special district created by the Florida legislature back in 1959, but with no dedicated funding source. The county had the option of funding it if it had sur- plus funds, and at that time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was making loans for land purchases, so the Development Commission purchased 500 acres. For several subsequent years, the Commission was supported by timber sales from the property. “And then, a fewyears ago, there was Jim Fowler’s