Florida works diligently at letting investors know it’s open for business, and nowhere is this more evident than on the Emerald Coast. In recent national studies, Florida ranked second only to Texas as having the best business climate, according to a 2013 Business Facilities Rankings Report.

But leading the pack in statewide rankings are Okaloosa County's Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin cities that were named the best-performing metropolitan statistical area in Florida, according to the national trade publication Area Development.

The publication recently ranked the Top 100 metropolitan statistical areas in the United States while taking into account more than 20 economic and workforce growth indicators. Based on handling numerous commercial and residential real estate transactions on the Emerald Coast, Jayme Nabors of NBI Properties said investors have favored the area even during the recession.

“Crestview is definitely a hot market, and our NBI Residential division has closed on numerous homes, condos, and vacation properties during the past three months,” he said. “Destin and Fort Walton Beach continue to flourish with commercial investors and entrepreneurs leasing retail, office and restaurant spaces. Overall, we've leased more than 200,000 square feet of commercial space in just two months.”

Some of the key commercial transactions in Fort Walton Beach include Bit Wizards, 13,000 square feet at 13 Memorial, 6,500 square feet to Contracting Services at 1984 Lewis Turner, 7,500 square feet to Rally Point on Anchors Street, and 15,000 square feet to Stone Connection at 638 Anchors Street.

Nabors said that investors are continually interested in favorable tax  incentives and that Florida ranks fifth in the nation in business tax  environment. He added that investors he’s worked with also say they appreciate Florida's infrastructure, as the state ranks second in maintaining roads, bridges and utility systems.

“The economy really harmed a lot of states as well as many areas throughout Florida,” said Nabors. “I think Okaloosa County has been lucky because there are many diverse interests here, including aerospace and defense contractors, the hospitality industry, retail and other sectors that have stabilized the economy and promoted business growth.”