Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chairman's Message: Fall is Around the Corner

The summer season is upon us, and I hope the businesses are all benefiting from the summer traffic occupying the roadways.  As we set our sights on the upcoming fall/football season, I want to thank everyone for their patience and hard work to keep our little slice of paradise a great place to Live, Work, and Play.

Over the past couple of months, the membership has been busy with multiple ribbon cuttings, grand openings, and Leaders in Business Lunches, with the main program hosted by Destin Commons, Smoke on the Coast on July 3.  If you were not able to attend, you missed another great event where a wide variety of food was the feature followed by a great July 4th Fireworks show.  For those of you who participated, thank you for your hard work to make this event successful.

Membership continues to increase with each passing week, and through June we have 949 active members as compared to 874 through June of 2014, an 8.6% increase.  The Chamber office traffic is averaging approximately 700 visitors each month.  Calls are up over last year by 1%, walk-ins up by 29%, and emails are up 22%.  If you are looking for a quick way to gain exposure to your business, contact the staff to find out how you can take advantage of this great resource.  If you have a change in personnel or with any of your contact information, please contact the Chamber so we can update your membership file.

The City of Destin held its follow up workshops “Envision Destin,” to roll out the possible changes to the land development code based on public input from the earlier workshops.   I hope those that were able to participate in the three public workshops are energized on the future development plans within the City. On a related front, the City has submitted its Highway 98 widening plans to the utility companies in hopes that the utilities can begin moving after Labor Day.

During the July Leaders in Business Lunch cookout at the Chamber office, we took a few minutes to recognize the JUCO Baseball World Series Champions, Northwest Florida State College Men’s Baseball Team.  This marks the second National Championship the school’s athletes have brought back to the region this year.  We are extremely proud of what the college has been able to accomplish, and we look forward to continued success stories.

Finally, I want to ask for everyone’s support and participation in the upcoming events: Rock the Docks at the HarborWalk Village stage, the Bushwacker 5K to benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Florida, and the Chamber’s 4th Annual Paddle at the Porch on Saturday, Aug. 15, south of the Back Porch Restaurant.  If you are not a paddle boarder, you need to either sign up as a volunteer or just come out and watch these three events.  Last year’s six mile race was won by our very own local Garrett Fletcher, so come out and support the local athletes.

If there is ever anything we may do for you, please do not hesitate to call the Chamber at (850) 837-6241. We look forward to serving you throughout 2015 and together building this world-class community one business at a time.  I hope everyone is Living the Dream in this place we call home, the Destin area.

Ken Wampler
2015 Chairman of the Board of Directors
Newman-Dailey Resort Properties, Inc.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

July 2015 Business Briefs / Member News Part 4

Hilton Sandestin Wins ‘Best in Show’ and ‘Best Overall’ at 2015 National Internet Advertising Competition 
Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa and advertising agency, Miles, are the proud recipients of yet two more awards for excelling in online advertising. After winning the regional ‘Best of Industry’ award from the Internet Advertising Competition back in March, they were awarded the national Internet Advertising Competition ‘Best of Show’ award in the Hotel and Lodging Email Message category and ‘Best Overall’ in the Email Messaging Category in July. 
Hilton Sandestin Beach also received the national the ‘Best of Show’ for their integrated ad campaign in 2013 for the advertisement announcing the redesigned website. 
Preston Hood Employees Donate to Children in Crisis
Preston Hood Chevrolet - Children In CrisisEmployee of the month Keith King and John Ross Summers, both of Preston Hood Chevrolet, donated their incentive checks totaling $200 to Children in Crisis (CIC). Long-time CIC supporter Preston Hood Chevrolet invited CIC to its monthly birthday celebration and announced the good news. Seen here, Taylor Hood of Preston Hood Chevrolet presents the donation to Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, with employee Keith King. 

Heather Hayes Experience Performs Labor Day Weekend
Heather Hayes Experience - Mattie Kelly Arts FoundationMattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) and Trustmark National Bank will present the Heather Hayes Experience in concert on Sunday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin. Heather Hayes is the daughter of music legend Isaac Hayes. The concert is part of MKAF’s year long 20th anniversary celebration and is the 7th annual Labor Day concert MKAF has staged.Grab your favorite lawn chair and pack a picnic or purchase dinner prepared fresh onsite. For tickets, visit

Tacos & Tequila Night Supports Arts & Education
Join the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation on Thursday, Aug. 27, at 5:30 p.m., at the newly opened Rockin Tacos Grill & Tequila Bar at The Boardwalk on Okaloosa Island.  Restaurateur John Perry will host this fundraising event to support arts and education in a fun, casual Gulf front dining atmosphere. Executive Chef Sixto Martinez is preparing multiple culinary stations featuring authentic Mexican cuisine of fresh and local ingredients for one-of-a-kind dishes.  Premier Beverage will host a Tequila tasting, including interesting historical facts about its myths and popularity in today’s culture. The evening will include Latin, Salsa, and mariachi music from the Rockin Tacos DJ to compliment this Mexican-themed fundraising event. For more information and tickets, visit
Slotter Joins the Newman-Dailey Resort Properties Real Estate Sales Division 
Newman-Dailey Resort Properties - Sherry SlotterNewman-Dailey Resort Properties Real Estate Division welcomes agent Sherry Slotter to its rapidly growing team. Slotter is an accredited short sale and foreclosure specialist and is adept at efficiently moving through and simplifying the foreclosure process for the benefit of all parties. Previously based in Atlanta, Ga., Slotter began investing in real estate along the Gulf Coast in 2000. During the past 15 years, she has grown her knowledge and expertise of the market and has relocated to the Emerald Coast. Slotter joins the team of licensed real estate agents specializing in buying and selling in South Walton and Destin. The Real Estate Division is consistently listed among the top 10 percent of real estate companies along the Emerald Coast for sales according to the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors (ECAR). For more information, visit or call (850) 837-1071.
Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center back to school supplies drive
The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) is doing its annual drive to collect back to school supplies for kids in grades K – 12. Any school items are needed, such as backpacks, paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, rulers, and spiral notebooks. Donations should be delivered to the Niceville Center, located at 401 McEwen Dr., by Aug. 10. For more information, contact Katie Crowell at (850) 833-9237 x256 or
BBVA Compass Donates Back to School Items to CIC Kids
BBVA Compass Bank helped the kids living at Children in Crisis (CIC) get ready for back to school.  Thanks to the generous donations from the staff and supporters, all the kids living at the CIC Neighborhood received necessary supplies to get the new school year started. To learn more about Children in Crisis, call (850) 864-4242 or visit
World Impact Agents Win FREE Cruise
Tracy Steele - World Impact Real EstateSteve Bassham - World Impact Real EstateTwo World Impact Real Estate agents, Tracy Steely and Steve Bassham, won a free cruise for them and their spouses for winning a company-wide contest. Broker Rodney Elkins required contest participants to perform five hours of community service and provide a 200-word essay about their experience, have four new listings and three closings, and introduce new agents to WIRE and its way of doing business.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

July 2015 Business Briefs / Member News Part 3

5th Annual Kid’s Catfish Tournament
Nick’s Seafood Restaurant of Freeport will hold the 5th Annual Kid’s Catfish Tournament on Saturday, July 25. The tournament is specifically designed with the young water enthusiast at heart, offering a new boat, trolling motor, and safety equipment to the overall winner.  From every entry, $5 will be donated to waterway education in the local school systems via the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s Grasses in Classes and Dunes in Schools environmental education programs. The Catfish Tournament activities will include Fish Weigh-Ins, Mullet Toss, CBA Water Steward Pledge, and Awards Ceremony. For more information about the Nick’s Kid’s Catfish Tournament and the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s involvement, contact Sarah Davis at (850) 585-7926 or
Florida Chamber Awards Rep. Matt Gaetz with Distinguished Advocate Award
As Chairman of the House Finance and Tax Committee, Rep. Gaetz led the effort in the Florida Legislature to secure a $400 million tax cut package, despite the impressive challenge the state faced in filling a gap in health care coverage for low income Floridians. Rep. Gaetz took the Florida Chamber’s recommendations and crafted a plan that will help lower the cost of doing business and the cost of living for all Floridians. The final tax package included four Florida Chamber priorities, including a reduction in the communications services tax, an increase in the research and development tax credit, a sales tax holiday for back to school, and an extension for companies currently receiving tax credits located in an enterprise zone. For details, visit
City Parks & Recreation Department Offers Bevy of Activities
From flag football and softball to theatre camp and big truck day, check out all of the programs from the City of Destin’s Parks & Recreation Department.
Twin Cities Hospital Recognized as Fit-Friendly Company for Second Consecutive Year
The American Heart Association recognized Twin Cities Hospital on Wednesday, July 15, as a Fit-Friendly Workplace for the second consecutive year.  Designed to be a catalyst for positive change in American business, the Fit-Friendly Companies Recognition Program identifies employers who champion the health of their employees by creating physical activity programs within the workplace.  The Fit-Friendly Companies Program is helping improve the health of Americans by focusing on activities that are convenient, easy, and free.   
HealthSource South Chiropractic Help CIC Children
Children In CrisisDr. Shawn Leatherman, Dr. Sarah Leatherman, Dr. Len Fabian, and the staff of HealthSource of Fort Walton Beach South Chiropractic donated $430 to Children in Crisis to help the kids living at Children in Crisis (CIC).  Thanks to the generous donations from the “Got Pain Program,” customers and staff helped the children have a little extra to get ready for the school summer vacation. Seen here are Jamie Aylstock, Fabian, Leatherman, and Laura Kenny of HealthSource, presenting the donation to Ken Hair (center), president and CEO of CIC.
Getting Things Done and Making a Difference
AmeriCorps NWF Environmental Stewards is now taking applications for the 2015-2016 program year. AmeriCorps is a component of the National Service Network. Its goal is to engage Americans of all ages and backgrounds in service to help meet communities' critical education, public safety, environmental, and other human needs. AmeriCorps is often referred to as the "Domestic Peace Corps." AmeriCorps members gain an opportunity to make a big difference in their lives and in the lives of others. 
The local AmeriCorps team serves Okaloosa and Walton counties by working hard to protect and restore our precious natural resources. Winner of 2014’s Florida AmeriCorps Program of the Year, NWF Environmental Stewards partner with Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance (CBA) to provide a workforce that helps to implement and enhance important environmental programs. For more information, visit
Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Seeks Artists for Festivals 
Mattie Kelly Arts FoundationThe
 Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) is now accepting applications for the Adult Collaborative Exhibit component of the 20th annual Festival of the Arts, on Oct. 24-25, at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin. Artwork should be of an artistic caliber associated with a juried fine art show. Artists selected to show in the Adult Collaborative Exhibit can display and/or sell up to three pieces of artwork. Collaborative artists are in the running for $600 in cash award prizes. The competition is open to the first 20 eligible applicants entry fee is $30 per person for up to three pieces of art.  The application deadline is Thursday, Sept. 24. To receive an application, contact Deb Nissley at the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation at (850) 650-2226.
Blue Marlin Realty Group Announces Expansion & New Director of Operations  
Blue Marlin Realty Group - Manuel VargasBlue Marlin Realty Group announces the expansion of its real estate and vacation rental company with the purchase of an office on Scenic Highway 30A. Located at 4987 County Highway 30A in Seacrest, the new location will serve as an office for Blue Marlin Realty Group realtors and a check in location for vacation rental guests. The local community is invited to celebrate the Grand Opening with a ribbon cutting and reception on Tuesday, August 4, at 4:30 p.m. 
With the expansion of Blue Marlin Realty Group, Manual Vargas has been hired as director of operations, overseeing both the Destin and 30A offices. Originally from South Florida, Vargas was brought up around rental properties in Miami and Orlando. Vargas’s real estate background includes five years as a community association manager (CAM) at a large homeowner'รข€‹s property and five years as a real estate broker in Orlando and Destin. Prior to his work as a CAM, Vargas was a professional photographer with ABC News in Orlando with assignments from Hawaii to Paris, including six months in Marbella, Spain. After discovering Destin while visiting his brother in Pensacola, Vargas bought a home with his VA Bill.