Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chairman's Message: It’s a Toll Bridge…get over it?

A source of major contention with locals and tourists alike is the high cost of travelling over the Mid-Bay Bridge and the newer Crosstown Connector. Is this a Destin problem? More directly, is this a Destin Chamber of Commerce problem?
For BusinessThe Destin Chamber exists to “advocate for business and strengthen our community.” It’s my desire as current Chairman to help make the Destin community a premier place to live, work and play. How does the cost of the Mid-Bay Bridge play into this goal?
Clearly, a large part of our workforce commutes from Niceville, Crestview and other areas north of Choctawhatchee Bay. Destin lacks the population to staff all of the jobs available in our marketplace, so we turn to area cities to hire the employees that we need.
The average full time employee who makes 20+ daily trips over both Bridge and Connector will spend approximately $2,000 per year in tolls alone (assuming the ‘discounted’ $3/trip rate). A part time worker (due to the $4/trip rate) pays an even higher price to work in Destin, if they have to cross the bridge, and many times they do it to work a shorter 4-6 hour shift.
If a job seeker is offered 10% less to work in Niceville rather than Destin, and they accept the reduced pay simply to avoid the tolls, this is a Destin problem. Many employers have paid higher wages to compete. Many have resorted to bringing in temporary employees from overseas simply to make sure they can meet staffing needs. Many have failed to expand due to concerns over finding employees. The lack of ability to grow is a Destin problem. 
The Borrower is Servant to the Lender…While it is easy to list reasons why a lower toll would help the local economy, the reality of is that the Bridge Authority has large debts, which must be paid. Simply lowering the toll because citizens desire to pay less is not a reasonable solution. Change is possible if united voices rise up.
Is this Important to You?The Chamber exists to advocate for our membership. Is this topic an important one for you? Is a lower toll vital to the success of your business? Speak up, tell us how we can advocate and let’s dialogue about it. We are not making a statement for or against the bridge toll at this time, but rather want to understand its importance in the lives of our membership.
Upcoming EventsThe Chamber is committed to providing and partnering in events that create environments for strong business networking, such as:
  • 5th Annual Paddle at the Porch (Aug. 20, on the beach behind the Back Porch)
  • 50th Anniversary Event (Dec. 15, at The Henderson)

Building bridges….and living in paradise,
Jonathan Ochs
President, Trustmark Bank

2016 Destin Chamber Chairman

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 2016 Business Briefs / Member News Part 4

MKAF Announces Winner of 2016 Festival of the Arts Poster Contest
Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation Festival of the Arts Poster 2016Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF) has named Kathleen Broaderick of Miramar Beach the 2016 Festival of the Arts poster contest winner. Recognized as one of Northwest Florida’s premier fine art shows, the Festival of the Arts, produced by MKAF, is one of the most anticipated cultural events of the year on the Emerald Coast. This year’s 21st annual event is set for Oct. 29-30, at the Mattie Kelly Cultural Arts Village in Destin. This is the first year Broaderick has entered the MKAF’s Festival of the Arts and her first-time try at the annual Poster Art Contest. Broaderick’s winning art entitled “Bonita” is an oil painting inspired by observing daily events of the local Emerald Coast lifestyle, specifically the color and excitement surrounding lucky anglers hauling in the day’s bounty on the docks of the Destin harbor.

SimpleHR Makes Top 100 Best Companies List
SimpleHRSimpleHR was recently named one of Florida’s Best Companies To Work For. The annual Best Companies list is featured in the August issue of Florida Trend magazine. One hundred companies are ranked in small, medium, and large employer categories. To participate, companies, or government entities had to employ at least 15 workers in Florida and have been in operation at least one year. Companies that chose to participate underwent an evaluation of their workplace policies, practices, philosophy, systems, and demographics. The process also included a survey to measure employee satisfaction. The combined scores determined the top companies and the final ranking. 

ECCAC Collecting School Supplies for Abused Kids
It’s almost back to school time and the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) in Niceville and DeFuniak Springs want to make sure kids are ready. Both centers are collecting back to school supplies for the abused children receiving services by the organization. More than 600 children per year receive these services at no cost to their families. Items being collected are backpacks, loose leaf paper, pencils, pens, crayons, scissors, glue sticks, highlighters, folder, rulers, and spiral and three ring notebooks. These items can be dropped off at either center by Aug. 19. For more information, or to arrange pickup of larger donations, contact Chelsea at, or call 850-833-9237 x256.

Coastal Skin Surgery & Dermatology Opens PCB Location
Coastal Skin Surgery and Dermatology is pleased to announce the opening of its fourth Emerald Coast office in Panama City Beach, on Aug. 1. Jessica L. Clark, M.D., FAAD, the first female dermatologist to serve Bay County, will be the primary physician at Coastal Skin Surgery & Dermatology located at 12139 Panama City Beach Parkway, Panama City Beach, Florida (850) 500-3376 [DERM]. She is board certified by the American Board of Dermatology and specializes in adult, pediatric, and cosmetic dermatology.  

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Releases Three Rehabilitated Sea Turtles At One Time
Gulfarium Marine Adventure ParkRehabilitated Loggerhead sea turtle Sandy and Green sea turtles Green Bean and Brocc were all released last week at Henderson Beach State Park by the Gulfarium CARE Center. Sandy had arrived at the Gulfarium CARE Center in May having buoyancy problems in the surf near Surf Dweller on Okaloosa Island by a kayaker. She began diving on her own at the facility just a few weeks ago and was deemed releasable. Juvenile Green turtle Green Bean was found by Destin Snorkel in late June at the East Jetty of Destin Harbor with fishing line embedded in front right flipper. Additionally, a fishing hook was located in the mouth, and fishing line was loosely wrapped around the neck. She was nursed back to releasable status by the CARE Center. Brocc was caught at Navarre Beach Fishing Pier in late June with a hook in the front left flipper and corner of the left cheek. These items were removed by the team, and the animal quickly improved.

Register Now for Fall Courses at NWFSC Professional & Continuing Education
Visit for a full list of available fall professional and continuing education courses at Northwest Florida State College.

Murals Completed in Okaloosa County Administration Building
Okaloosa County Art MuralLocal artist Elia Saxer has completed two murals in the Okaloosa County Administration Building (OCAB). One is dedicated to Okaloosa County’s history in celebration of its centennial year in 2015, coinciding with the grand opening of OCAB. The other themed mural is the Emerald Coast emerald waters, Florida, and fauna. The County encourage everyone to visit the Okaloosa County Administration Building and see this art in person where it comes to life. The artwork is located in the main entrance foyer. For more information, call or email Citizens Information Line at 311 and visit   

Okaloosa Recycling Offices Awarded Household Hazardous Waste Program of the Year
Okaloosa County Recycling Office Wins AwardThe Okaloosa County Recycling Office was selected as the “HouseholdWaste (HHW) Program of the Year,” by the Florida Chapter of the North American Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA). The North America Hazardous Materials Management Association (NAHMMA) is a professional organization dedicated to pollution prevention and reducing the hazardous constituents entering municipal waste streams from households, small businesses, and other entities that may be exempt from local, regional, or national regulations. Seen here are (back row, left to right) Commissioners Trey Goodwin, Vice Chairwoman Carolyn Ketchel, Chairman Kelly Windes, Nathan Boyles, Wayne Harris, and County Administrator John Hofstad. The award recipients (front row, left to right) are Chauncey King, hazardous materials technician I; Jay Shartz, hazardous material technician II; Jason Autrey, public works director; and Jim Reece, recycling coordinator.

United Way Visits Children in Crisis
Children In Crisis - United Way of Okaloosa-Walton CountiesThe United Way of Okaloosa-Walton Counties staff and loaned executives visited Children in Crisis(CIC) during their annual orientation and training day. The loaned executives are from organizations and business all around the counties.  These specially selected volunteers will be the front-line contact for the community United Way Campaign.  The 2016-17 campaign helps support 40 local charities like Children in Crisis and its on-going missions of providing services to those in need in the local area.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Destin Chamber Offers Non-Partisan Voter Information on New Website

Destin, Fla., July 21 – How do you register to vote? Who are the candidates in upcoming state and Federal elections? Will there be any Constitutional Amendments on this year’s ballot? Find answers to these questions and much more on the Destin Chamber’s new website, a non-partisan news and information resource for voters.
“At a crucial time for the country, the state, and our community, we feel providing our members and community with as much information on the election as possible is a fundamental responsibility,” explained Chamber President and CEO Shane A. Moody, CCE, FCCP. “The site does not endorse any candidates. It simply provides a portal for citizens to register to vote and learn about the candidates and issues.”
The site will be updated regularly with new information useful to area voters. It was developed in partnership with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
   continues to build on our relationship and partnership with the Florida Chamber and with other chambers across the state. It’s crucial that the people of our community exercise the greatest right in the world, and that’s the right to vote freely. This site allows them to educate themselves before they go to the polls,” said Moody.
For details, visit or call the Destin Chamber at (850) 837-6241.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

July 2016 Business Briefs / Member News Part 3

Governor Rick Scott Appoints Seven to Judicial Nominating Commissions
Harrison Sale McCloy - Brandon R. BurgRecently, Gov. Rick Scott announced three re-appointments and four appointments to four Judicial Nominating Commissions. His nomination for the Fourteenth Circuit Judicial Nomination Commission is Brandon R. Burg, 33, of Panama City. Burg is an attorney with Harrison Sale McCloy. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning July 1, 2016, and ending July 1, 2020.

Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center Releases Rehabilitated Sea Turtle, "Harriet"
Gulfarium Marine Adventure ParkA 105-pound Loggerhead turtle named Harriet has been rehabilitated and was released back into the Gulf of Mexico today, Tuesday, July 14, 2016 by the Gulfarium C.A.R.E. Center. Harriet, a female Loggerhead sea turtle, arrived at the center in early May. Her carapace was covered in red and green algae, and her body condition was extremely emaciated. Diagnostic blood-work showed she was slightly anemic. She was initially given antibiotics, iron, vitamin B, and fluids. Harriet passed her swim test and was able to dive, rest, and walk along the bottom in addition to surfacing for normal breaths and began eating in the middle of May. As she gained strength preparations were made for her release.
First Partners Bank Welcomes Baker to Northwest Florida Operations
First Partners Bank - Chris BakerWith its latest expansion into Florida, Chris Baker has joined Birmingham-based First Partners Bank as branch manager of the Destin office. In this role, Baker will assist in growing and developing the Destin office and servicing the needs of business owners and consumers in the surrounding area. Baker attended the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He joins First Partners after three years as branch manager for SunTrust Bank, located in Destin and Watercolor. 

City of Destin 2017 Business Tax Receipt Renewal Period
The 2017 local Business Tax Receipt renewal period began July 1. Businesses MUST renew their business tax receipts by Sept. 30, 2016, to avoid late fees. To renew your local Business Tax Receipt by mail, send checks to the City of Destin, 4200 Indian Bayou Trail, Destin, FL., 32541, or you can renew in person at the Destin City Hall Annex located at 4100 Indian Bayou Trail between 7 a.m. - 4 p.m., Monday-Thursday, and 7 a.m.-noon, on Friday. Contact the city’s Building Division at (850) 837-4242 or with any questions.

Father Daughter Princess Ball Benefits The Arc of the Emerald Coast
The Arc of the Emerald Coast - Emerald Coast Hospice - Superior Residences of Bluewater BayThe Arc of the Emerald Coast received funds as the beneficiary of the recently held Annual Father-Daughter Princess Ball, hosted by Emerald Coast Hospice and Superior Residences on May 27. The Annual Emerald Coast Father-Daughter Princess Ball, which was held at the Niceville Community Center, was attended by more than 100 fathers and daughters.  Seen here are (left to right) Melita Brantley, senior solutions director with Superior Residences; Amanda Curtis, Emerald Coast Hospice account executive; Sarah Price, executive director with Superior Residences; Sherry Richardson, Emerald Coast Hospice clinical specialist; Donna Tashik, The Arc of the Emerald Coast community development director; and Gayle Vann, The Arc of the Emerald Coast community development coordinator.

Olive Garden Serves Dinner to CIC Kids
Children In CrisisOlive Garden Restaurant of Fort Walton Beach gave the children living at the Children in Crisis(CIC) Neighborhood a real treat this week.  Olive Garden staff members Melissa Saczynski and Sheena Russell served a wonderful Italian dinner will all the trimmings, including dessert, to about 50 CIC children and 10 house parents. Seen here, Ken Hair, CIC president and CEO, thanks Scazynski and Russell.  Also pictured (left center) is Kim Kurth of Insurance Zone, who coordinated the dinner and spearheaded a food drive for the CIC pantry.