Members of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance first announced Project Freckle this summer. Friday, they were finally able to spill the details. After lying vacant for 3 years, the former HealthSouth building at 1710 Lisenby Avenue in Panama City which used to function as a rehabilitation facility will now become GPD Pathology.
The lab will test and diagnose tissue samples for doctors and hospitals from across the southeastern United States.
"We're the only independent laboratory, when it's complete, that will be in Bay County,” said Jon Ward, M.D., President of GPD Pathology. “We would primarily be competing with large corporations like Quest and LabCorp."
It’s the kind of new industry local leaders have been trying to attract.
"One of the things we've been trying to do is diversify the economy in Bay County,” said Bay County EDA Executive Director, Neal Wade. “You know, tourism has been so strong and what we want to have are things that are manufacturing and technology and this is going to be a great technology, life sciences company."
"Well everything doesn't have to be based on tourism, you know?” said Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki. “Give you a chance, maybe for the college over there to start offering degrees in what they need here for pathology, keep brain power here in the city."
Ward says GPD Pathology will pay workers and average salary of $68,000 per year, twice the county’s current average.
"We've been doing this in my other business,” said Ward. “Having Bay County high school graduates coming in and making great salary for what a high school graduate would make and then when they complete the program making an even better salary because they've completed the specialized training."
GPD will receive a $415,000 tax refund through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, but only after creating and maintaining the 83 new jobs.
GPD Pathology hopes to open it’s doors in March.