79 Corridor Project aims to bring industry to rural northwest Florida

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HOLMES COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) Highway 79 is a funnel into Panama City, but there aren't many businesses along the road.

The 79 Corridor Project is an interlocal agreement between Holmes County, Washington County, and the city of Bonifay.

The goal is to bring development into the Highway 79 area from I-10 to Douglas Ferry Road in Washington County.

"We're looking for gas stations, maybe a hotel, strip mall, those sorts of things," Holmes County Coordinator Wesley Adams said. "It's going to bring jobs to the community and it's going to help give us something to do and help them to see Bonifay."

The project recently received $1 million to lay the groundwork,thanks to Senator George Gainer and Representative Brad Drake.

"Right now we have $1 million," Washington County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett said. "We need $2 million more and we're going to be seeking grants to finish off this project and lay approximately 2.9 miles of sewer and water lines."

James Town has been focusing on the business side of the 79 Corridor Project and sees it as a win for businesses already located nearby.

"That should be good because it'll force them to up their game a little bit and be more competitive, or change their business a little bit so they are not competing with some of the new people," Town said.

For Everett, this project is a way to bring attention back to rural northwest Florida.

"We are losing our population base," Everett said. We are losing our students in the school district. We export more jobs then we import, so this is a crucial project to start changing that equation."

He said he hopes to see more jobs and industry in the future.

Officials are working on setting up the sewer and water lines.

They hope to have some new businesses in the area by 2019.