MILTON — The Triumph Board of Directors awarded Santa Rosa County $8.5 million for site development at Whiting Aviation Park. The project continues on an investment Santa Rosa County made to purchase 267 acres next to Naval Air Station Whiting Field and anticipates creating 200 high paying jobs. The total cost of the aviation park project is $17,704,975, with Triumph providing 48 percent of those costs.

"It was a tremendous day for the two-county area," Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter said at the July 23 Commissioners meeting.

Salter was referring to the Whiting Park grant and the Pensacola International Airport award of $56 million. The Pensacola airport expansion will create 2,000 jobs in the next four years. Salter estimates 18 percent of those jobs will go to Santa Rosa residents.

Three factors led to the success of the award. The county's proposal received an “A” rating by Dr. Rick Harper, economic advisor to the Triumph board.

"That was substantial when it came to the board," Salter said.

The second was the support of Triumph board member Dr. Pam Dana.

"She strongly supported what we were trying to do," Salter said. The board identified the work between the county and Dana and encouraged a continued collaboration on the project.

The third was having worked with board members.

"They know the history, not just the park, but of Whiting itself," Salter said.

Whiting Field Public Affairs Officer Julie Ziegenhorn said the park is a good incentive for Santa Rosa County and the base looks forward to seeing the project progress.

According to a Triumph press release, development of Whiting Aviation Park strengthens the region's aviation cluster with Pensacola International Airport to the west and Crestview Bob Sikes Airport in Okaloosa County to the east. It enhances the region's growing aviation industry by providing additional space adjacent to an existing airfield. In addition, it supports the regional strategic initiative of expanding the aerospace and defense industry cluster, an industry with strong outlook for growth.

Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., is a non-profit corporation tasked with administering settlement money from the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Triumph is required to spread out money to the eight Gulf Cost counties most affected by the oil spill: Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Walton counties.