Freeport Merchants Association Gives Valuable Tools to Local Businesses

Mar 13, 2024 | Businesses, DeFuniak Springs, Freeport, Walton & Beyond

Bill Blanken picking raffle winner with FMA member.

By Wendy Dixon

Unity among businesses can yield positive results to everyone’s bottom line. With that goal in mind, the Freeport Merchants Association (FMA) was formed. Bill Blanken, president of FMA, has grown the association from below 50 in the summer of 2023 to 140 members today, and it’s growing continually.

“We support Freeport businesses,” he says.  “If you have a business in Freeport, we support you. Or if you have a business elsewhere but do work in Freeport, we support that too. We have members from Destin to Panama City Beach, Fort Walton Beach and even New York.” 

This innovative merchant service provider offers solutions for businesses across a number of industries. Members get support, education and networking opportunities.

“We bring in speakers that people want to listen to,” Bill says. “Speakers who can show how to create a business plan, how to get a loan, how to hire the right employees, how to train employees. We share the city’s monthly planning report with members in good standing to help them know what new real estate is coming into town. This encourages members to keep renewing their membership because they find that valuable.”

FMA member crowd at a recent meeting

Members contribute to the enterprising spirit of the FMA by hosting breakfasts or socials and sharing their success. And the vibe is always positive. “Our members can hear stories from other business people who came from simple beginnings and are now successful. I don’t deal with negativity or mindless chatter. I’m always about having a positive atmosphere, and focusing on how we can move forward.”

The FMA also recognizes the importance of mentoring students who will eventually open a business in Freeport. One recent speaker was Walton County School Superintendent Russell Hughes, who discussed the educational system and the future entrepreneurs who will shape the town. Other noteworthy speakers are lined up for next year, too.

The Freeport Merchants Association meets on the third Thursday of each month, 8 a.m. at various member locations.

Evening socials are on the second Thursdays of each month at 6 p.m. at various member locations. Door prizes, swag and fun add to the valuable benefits of being a member.

You can learn more about the Freeport Merchant Association on their website,


Logo for HWY 331 Podcast

Sponsored in part by The Freeport Merchant Association, in this episode of the HWY 331 Podcast, we talk to Terry Mauer of Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of West Florida.


Follow Us Ride or Die Partners

Sushi Image

The Bay

At the foot of the HWY 331 bridge, The Bay is a family-friendly waterfront restaurant features mouth-watering Southern gulf coast cuisine, sushi, a 12-draft beer system, excellent wine selections, and inventive bar-crafted cocktails.