Okaloosa (FL) Economic Development Council & Walton County (FL) Economic Development Corporation – Economic Diversification Plan

ChallengeThe State of Florida’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development (OTTED), in partnership with Okaloosa Economic Development Council, Walton County Economic Development Council and the Walton County Chamber of Commerce, hired TIP Strategies to develop an Economic Diversification Plan for Okaloosa AND Walton Counties. TIP’s assignment was to identify the challenges and opportunities in the two counties. The Department of Defense provided significant funding to the State of Florida for this project with an objective of diversifying the economy. The Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) announcement by the Department of Defense led to this study.

ApproachTIP approaches the development of an economic diversification plan in three phases, 1) discovery, 2) opportunity, and 3) implementation. TIP worked closely with the Okaloosa Economic Development Council and the Walton County Chamber of Commerce who coordinated meetings, and provided strategic insight and past planning documents. Over the course of seven months, TIP visited Okaloosa, Walton, and neighboring counties, seven times. We began by assessing the county’s economic base to understand the opportunities available and identify the most pressing challenges. The first few trips were spent collecting data, and interviewing public officials and key stakeholders. The initial findings were presented and feedback received. The results of this work were refined based on input from the community through a series of focus groups and public workshops. TIP held six focus groups that addressed issues/areas such as 1) industry, 2) innovation and entrepreneurship, 3) arts and culture, 4) education, 5) marketing, and 6) young professionals.

OutcomeThere were two deliverables provided to the State of Florida, the Okaloosa Economic Development Council, Walton County Economic Development Council, and the Walton Chamber of Commerce – a Target Market Study and a Strategic Plan for Diversifying the Economy. The Target Market Study describes the key issues that have a bearing on each county’s economic success and its ability to diversify the economy. It analyzes and recommends specific industries that could flourish in the county. The second deliverable, a Strategic Plan for Diversifying the Economy, focuses on actions each county should take to enhance its ability to succeed in attracting and expanding the targeted industries. The strategies outlined provide the County Economic Development departments and the Chamber with a framework for economic growth and help define the counties in the minds of businesses and residents throughout the region. Although the contract was to provide only one deliverable for Okaloosa and Walton counties combined, TIP realized that we needed to develop separate strategic plans for both counties – to ensure more effective implementation.

Other projects in northwest Florida:Pensacola Bay (FL) Area Chamber of Commerce & Escambia County (FL) – Economic Diversification Plan

TIP Contact Tom Stellman