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Okaloosa County poised for economic boost with CSX Railroad’s Select Site certification

Crestview, Florida – Okaloosa County’s Shoal River Ranch Gigasite has recently achieved a significant milestone by being designated as a “Select Site” at the Bronze Level by CSX Railroad, a leading entity in freight transportation across North America. This prestigious recognition places the Shoal River Ranch among an exclusive group of 19 sites nationwide, heralding a new era of economic development and job creation opportunities for the County.

Economic Development on the Horizon

The “Select Site” status awarded by CSX Railroad is not just a badge of honor but a strategic advantage for Okaloosa County. It underscores the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite’s potential as a prime location for economic growth, thanks to its ideal positioning and connectivity. This certification is the result of the diligent efforts of One Okaloosa EDC, which applied for the industrial site certification designation for Shoal River Ranch in early 2023.

Shoal River Ranch, which currently lies on the Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad, benefits from its connection to CSX at both ends of the line. This connectivity is crucial for facilitating efficient freight transportation, making the site an attractive proposition for leading employers who prioritize multi-modal transportation options.

The expansion of the “Select Site” program in 2023, in partnership with Global Location Strategies (GLS), has introduced a new dimension to the certification process. It includes a rigorous site due diligence and essential factors needed to accommodate rail access, setting a high standard for industrial sites across the country. Since its inception in 2012, the program has attracted dozens of manufacturers, projecting capital investments to reach $14 billion and the creation of nearly 11,000 jobs.

Nathan Sparks, Executive Director of One Okaloosa EDC, highlighted the strategic importance of the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite’s location. With industrial-zoned land located on I-10, U.S. Highway 90, and the Florida Gulf & Atlantic rail line, the site is well-equipped to support businesses valuing multi-modal transportation connectivity. The CSX Select Site bronze certification serves as an industry-recognized validation of the site’s capability to support significant economic endeavors.

The certification process includes a comprehensive analysis through a platform called Zoom Prospector, which offers data-driven analytics to optimize the marketability of rail-served sites. The Site Shepherd score, a key component of the certification, helps in identifying top-performing sites and providing feedback on potential areas of improvement.

The achievement was formally recognized during the February 20 Board of County Commissioners meeting, where Aubrey Brown, Senior Business Development Manager for CSX, Steve Laird, Assistant Vice President Sales & Marketing of Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad, and Cassie Dull, Chief Commercial Officer of Gulf & Atlantic Railroad, presented a plaque to the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners and One Okaloosa EDC.

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