Editor’s note: For an updated version of this story, click here.

An economic development vision has taken a big step toward becoming a reality with a major proposal made to the Holmes County Development Commission (HCDC) by the owners of the Busy Bee, who have been working to bring one of its popular service stations to Bonifay since 2021.

The company delivered an offer to purchase the remaining acreage of Project Gateway – 86 acres owned by HCDC located at the southwest corner of the Interstate 10 and State Road 79 interchange following a March 14 site tour. The amount of the purchase offer is still yet to be determined.

The Busy Bee originally entered into contract with HCDC on June 7, 2022, to build a large service plaza. In October 2022, Busy Bee purchased 11.8 acres of the 98-acre tract for $1.8 million. 

The current proposal, upon closing, would make Busy Bee the sole owner of the entire tract, which they would develop in addition to their service plaza. 

“Our board has known for years the financial impact a service plaza could make in Holmes County through jobs and fuel tax revenue, and we approached several entities,” stated HCDC Executive Director Joe Rone. “When I met the owners, Elizabeth and Lucas Waring, in April 2021, I felt certain they would be the right partner based on their business expertise combined with their family’s commitment to helping rural communities.” 

HCDC representatives say purchase of the site from previous ownership was a significant accomplishment on its own, stating the property was a “much sought-after property, but ownership by a public entity could provide access to the grant funding for the necessary infrastructure.” The property was purchased from Bush Legacy in November 2022 through a joint venture financial agreement between HCDC and Holmes County, which was then titled Project Gateway. 

HCDC also credits the state and Governor DeSantis’s “focus on serving rural Florida” with support for Project Gateway, which was awarded grant funding – including a $1,870,700 Rural Infrastructure Grant, as well as a $3,300,000 Community Development Block Grant Economic Development Grant. Since November 2022, HCDC has worked closely with DHM Engineering to facilitate the environmental study, infrastructure, site design, engineering, and Florida Department of Transportation plans for Project Gateway. Officials say the remainder of these grants will continue to be administered by DHM Engineering and will transfer with the sale of the property.

Holmes County’s heavy equipment operators recently spent several weeks clearing this property. 

“We appreciate the County’s efforts to expedite the development of the site,” said Doyle Majors, HCDC Chairman. “Their investment of time and resources to clear the land contributed to the timeliness of this offer.” 

Rone presented Busy Bee’s offer to the HCDC board of directors in their March 19 meeting. The motion to accept the offer was passed. Next, the terms – including the final sale price – will be negotiated, and a close date will be set. This transaction would satisfy the loan agreement and relieve all county debt associated with the joint venture. In the first three years alone, from construction to operations, the Busy Bee’s tax impact to the County is projected to be $9.7 million.

The impact of the deal is not limited to economic aspects, however: The proposal comes with a built-in promise from the Warings to earmark a tract of land for the construction of a new fire substation. The couple got the idea following the site tour last week after speaking with Bonifay Mayor Larry Cook, who highlighted the critical need for a substation at the site.

“Last year, the Bonifay Fire Department responded to 51 accidents on I-10, “said Cook. “Being in closer proximity to the interstate, as well as to Doctors Memorial Hospital, would greatly improve our response times.”  As a result of that conversation, the Busy Bee included their commitment to providing land for a fire substation in their written offer to HCDC.

This was still a developing story at press time. Check and the March 27 edition of the Holmes County Advertiser for updates, as well as the response from the Holmes County Board of Commissioners.

Busy Bee: What is the economic impact?

The construction of the Busy Bee has long been discussed and debated. Here’s a look at its past and projected economic impact on Holmes County:

Since 2022

•  Busy Bee purchased 11.8 acres in 2022. 

•  $22,200 in 2023 property taxes paid to Holmes County 

Projected Impact

Busy Bee Service Plaza:

•  Total Projected Retail Space: 50,000+ square feet

•  Years 1-3 Combined (Construction to Operation) is projected to result in:

– 133+ new jobs

– $32.4M Total New Annual Payroll

– $91.6M New Annual Sales/Output

– $9.7M Combined Tax Revenue

Project Gateway (Beyond the Busy Bee Service Plaza):

•  Total Projected Retail/Hotel Space: 150,000+ square feet

– $23.7M New Annual Sales/Output

– $407,955 New Annual Tax Revenue

– Targeted Development: Trucking/automotive 

dealership and service, hotels, restaurants, retail, 

grocery, and apartment housing 

Leave a Reply

Advertising Options

Reach your target audience with our newspaper advertising options. Our publication has a wide readership, making it the perfect platform to promote your business or event.

To inquire about advertising rates and options, please fill out the form below and a member of our team will be in touch with you shortly.

Take advantage of our high readership and targeted demographics to promote your business to the right people. From print ads to online banners, we have a variety of options to suit your needs and budget.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to reach your target audience. Contact us today to learn more about our advertising options.

E-Mailing List Subscription

Stay informed with our email mailing list! Sign up today and never miss a beat on the latest news and events in your community.

To join our e-mailing list, simply fill out the form below. We’ll send you a weekly digest of the top stories, delivered right to your inbox.

By signing up, you’ll be the first to know about breaking news, upcoming events, and special promotions. Plus, you’ll be eligible for exclusive subscriber-only content and offers.