'Where business can proliferate' — New EDC director says Destin is ripe for economic development

Matt Algarin
This office park along Commons Drive is just one of many in the city that has available space.

Although there are plenty of vacant storefronts and buildings dotting Destin, having readily available space is something that could work in the city's favor.

"I've already gotten a very good windshield tour of the community and have seen a number of places were a business can proliferate," said Nathan Sparks, the recently hired executive director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.

Sparks was in Destin to speak to city leaders during Monday night's City Council meeting. And when it comes to economic development, Sparks said there are four P's that play into a successful formula — people, products, plans and political will.

As of late, city leaders have placed an emphasis on diversifying the economy and attracting new businesses. Part of their planning has been to create an economic development component of the comprehensive plan.

As for the types of jobs that would be ideal for Destin, they are mostly smaller businesses such as technology contractors and other high-skill careers that aren't necessarily tied to a specific geography, Sparks said.

"We see professional services and engineering opportunities come through our office," he said. "There is an abundance of office space that these types of people could be attracted to."

Much like Sparks, Local Realtor Jonathan Spears said the number of people calling his company, White Sands Resort Realty, in regard to office space has increased as of late.

"I see a lot of the demand out there in the market," said Spears. "Most of them (inquires) are from small business owners, and while they are able to find inventory, they are leasing instead of buying."

Driving along Commons Drive in Destin, there is no shortage of signs announcing the availability of office space for lease, but given the emerald green waters and sugar white sands in Destin, those signs shouldn't stay there for too long.

"My sense is that if there were a community that could capitalize on lifestyle amenities and attributes, it's Destin," Sparks said.

The key to growth though, Sparks said, is for the city of Destin, the county and other stakeholders to all work as one unified body, not separate entities.

"It's not the EDC versus the chamber, or Destin versus Crestview," he said. "It's Okaloosa County versus the world."