HOLMES AND WASHINGTON COUNTIES — Budding industrial parks, zoning changes and transportation options are ushering in new opportunities for industrial growth in the region.

As surrounding counties hone in on developing large box distribution centers, economic development agencies in Holmes and Washington Counties are working to develop a possible niche to set them apart from neighboring competition. Meanwhile, the local workforce is watching as several projects are in development.

Holmes Industrial Park – East

Holmes’s industrial park in Bonifay has been a steady work in progress over the past two years with renovation of warehouse space and the opening of Paradigm Plastics, a plastic mold injection company. The park is following suit with a marketing study conducted in 2015 suggesting the site is best positioned for manufacturing, goods production and assembly as viable operations.

At the beginning of March, the county was in negotiation with a building material manufacturing company interested in constructing a 70,000-square foot facility with the potential to provide about 70 new jobs.

Holmes Industrial Park – West

The 12-acre industrial site in Ponce de Leon that was once a lumberyard is a blank canvas with railroad access. The county has explored selling the property to investors with the condition that jobs would result from a new venture.

Tri-County Airport

Tri-County Airport is an untapped asset with undeveloped property waiting for commercial growth. The recently extended 5,400-foot runway can now accommodate corporate aircraft and cargo planes. The airport gives Holmes, Washington and Jackson Counties a more competitive edge in an area well-anchored in manufacturing and agriculture.

GKN Aerospace

Construction of a new aerospace facility that will serve military and commercial clients is projected to bring 170 new jobs for those willing to commute in the region. GKN Aerospace is located adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Bay County.

Eastern Shipbuilding

Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City recently landed a $10.5 billion contract with the U.S. Coast Guard. The shipyard will eventually hire 1,000 new employees in the next two years in preparation for production of 25 offshore patrol cutters.