Private aviation company sets its sights on ECP

Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 8:14 PM CDT
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BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A new company is ready to take flight at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Southern Sky Aviation is headquartered out of Birmingham, Alabama.

“The economic impact on Bay County is that we will bring 20 jobs, but more importantly, there is a need for this service at the airport,” said Donald Howell, Southern Sky Aviation President and CFO. “As we started growing Southern Sky Aviation, we realized we wanted to be in a community like Panama City.”

The company plans to build a fixed base operator, or FBO. It’s essentially a gas station for aircraft that offers services to general aviation aircraft.

“Bay County and the surrounding counties really have seen tremendous growth through ECP,” Howell said.

The privately-owned, full-service aviation company will be operating on about 10.5 acres of land. Company executives say the terminal itself will be about 9,000 square feet. This, in turn, is resulting in a more than $25 million planned investment from Southern Sky Aviation.

It’s something Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin has been working toward.

“One of our biggest target markets in recruiting in the economic development arena are aviation-related companies because we have a wonderful, very busy airport,” Hardin said.

The groundbreaking ceremony for Southern Sky Aviation will be held in October.

Company leaders say they expect the project to be completed by December 2023.