Mercury Marine coming to Panama City

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It looks like just another building being built on Watson Bayou in Panama City, but this one's a little different. Soon, it will be the headquarters for engine testing for Mercury Marine.

"They liked the area, the seclusion, the privacy, the people of Panama City and Bay County. The really liked what they found here," said Ted Clem with the Bay County Chamber of Commerce.

Mercury is relocating its testing operations from a secluded lake in central Florida where it had been operating for close to 50 years.

Lake Conlin in Osceola County was for many years known as "Lake X". It's where Mercury did all of research and development of new engines. It was one of the most secure sights in the state with round-the-clock security and a 10-foot high fence, which surrounded most of the property.

Most details about the facility were shroud in a veil of secrecy, especially the testing of the motors, but after 47 years, Mercury outgrew Lake "X", and went looking for a new home.

That's when they landed in Panama City. The 30,000 square foot facility on Watson Bayou, named "X-Site" will have multiple in-water slips, an office, laboratory and boat rigging building.

Mercury officials say having fresh and saltwater, along with a bay and gulf nearby, is what put Panama City above more than 50 other locations throughout the country.

The engine testing won't significantly impact neighborhood waters, but it could help increase safety on the water as Mercury makes its presence known in the community.

"They will have a lot of boats on the water and will offer help to boats in distress," said Clem. The company is reportedly looking to hire between 20 and 30 boat captains in the coming weeks. The new facility should be sometime in the next two months.

Mercury is already testing engines in Bay County waterways. It's been doing so for the last few weeks.