PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) – While many business are shutting their doors right now, one worldwide corporation announced Thursday they are heading to Bay County. Suzuki Motor of America, Inc. has plans to build a Marine Technical Center in Panama City.
Back before Hurricane Michael, Suzuki was looking for a place to build the center, the first of it’s kind in the U.S. In December of last year, the company made the decision to bring it here and bought 20 acres of land on Frankford Avenue.
“We competed against a lot of states that have access to the water because that was a requirement that they needed access to the water,” Bay Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin said. “We were just fortunate enough that we were able to get their attention and that we were able to assemble enough property for them to locate the center here.”
The decision to bring the business to Panama City is a big one for Bay County as it not only brings new jobs to the area, but also a boost to the economy.
“That’s part of the attractiveness of having this new Suzuki Integrations Center here is they’ll bring customers from all over the United States to come to Bay County, to stay in our hotels, to eat in our restaurants and really be a great boost to our local economy,” Hardin said.
The center plans on hiring three to five people in the first year, but then will expand to hire more as the scope of the operation grows.
“When you come in and spend the kind of money that they spent on buying property, they’re investing themselves into the community,” Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki said. “They believe in us. It’s not like they just came into town and renting some office space or rented some warehouse space, they brought property to go ahead and invest in the community. That’s a big deal.”
Suzuki plans to work in collaboration with U.S.-based boat and accessory manufacturers to develop and improve its products (currently outboard motors from 2.5 to 350 horsepower) using the resources this unique location provides – a launch ramp, a large basin area for running and testing boats/motors, and a protected harbor, officials wrote in a news release.
“They’ve seen us go through some devastation and they’ve seen the resilience of our community and they stay dedicated to their project and they wanted to be part of the rebuilding effort,” Hardin said. “So we could not be happier to have this corporate citizen come to Bay County.”
Suzuki does not have an official timeline for the project yet, but Hardin says construction could start as early as next year.