Governor Signs Executive Order Designating North Walton County as Rural Area of Economic Opportunity

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August 07, 2017
On August 4th, Governor Rick Scott signed Executive Order 17-212 which designated Walton County north of the Choctawhatchee Bay and intercoastal waterway as a Rural Area of Opportunity.
This Executive Order amends Executive Order 15-133 that was signed on July 8th, 2015.  This designation now includes the north part of Walton County in the Northwest Rural Area of Opportunity that includes nine other panhandle counties (Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Wakulla, and Washington) and the City of Freeport.
In June of 2017, the Walton County Economic Development Alliance (WCEDA) began working with Mark Kruse, Policy Coordinator at the Office of Policy and Budget in the Governor’s office and State Representative Brad Drake, to get the designation for Walton County.
Rural Areas of Opportunity (RAO) are defined as rural communities, or a region composed of rural communities, that have been adversely affected by extraordinary economic events or natural disasters. The Governor by executive order may designate up to three RAOs, which establishes each region as a priority assignment for Rural and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) agencies and allows the Governor to waive criteria of any economic development incentive.*
“This designation now provides Walton County with a great opportunity to enhance its position in competing for business growth, expansion and diversification,” said WCEDA Executive Director Bill Imfeld.  “It will enable collaborative efforts with other panhandle counties to provide various tools to offer prospective businesses.”
This designation now provides for Walton County to offer incentives for new business or the expansion of existing businesses including:
  • The Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program
  • The Quick Response Training Program
  • Transportation projects
  • The rural job tax credit program
Detailed information on the programs listed above can be found on the Enterprise Florida website at
With this designation assigned, the WCEDA will begin working with the cities and the County to develop and put in place a memorandum of understanding regarding actions to be taken regarding implementation of the program.
For more information, please contact WCEDA Executive Director Bill Imfeld at or 850-892-8155.
*Information as provided by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
Bill Imfled, WCEDA Executive Director