Pensacola, Florida
Sunday August 19th 2018

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Rising Stars 2013

By IN staff

The economic development folks will tell you how important a solid talent pool of potential employees is to the companies that they are recruiting to the area.

The Quality Life surveys have told us over the past five years that few in this community believe this is a good place for young professionals seeking employment. Our shrinking population, particularly inside the city of Pensacola, supports that attitude.

In 2008, only nine percent of the community believed Escambia County was a good place for recent college graduates to live. Five years later the percentage only slightly increased to 14 percent.

The Independent News began in 2008 its Rising Stars program to honor the leaders in the under-35 crowd, hoping by recognizing and honoring these men and women from a variety of fields we could encourage them to stay. Each year since, the IN has sought out nominations of individuals who work or live in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties and are seen as the upcoming leaders in their professions and in the community.

Recognition Mattered

Ashley Hodge Harris, OB/GYN business director at Baptist Hospital, was in the inaugural Rising Stars. She saw the community in a tipping point as it rebuilt from Hurricane Ivan, developed the maritime park and elected new leaders.

“Being named a Rising Star illustrated that it still meant something to care about this community, and that the collective energy of our passion and youth was being taken seriously for the first time,” said Harris. “It meant wanting to make a difference does matter regardless of how old you are and what level of business and social status you are at in your life.”

KC Etheredge (2009), vice-president for Membership & Investor Development at Greater Pensacola Chamber, was impressed by the group of talented young professionals in her Rising Stars group.

“It was reinforcement that I had been making the right choices in my career,” said Etheredge, “and that my hard work and dedication to our community was being recognized and appreciated by others.”

For Whitney Fike (2011), marketing specialist for Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union, it helped her career to be recognized with upcoming community leaders, entrepreneurs, and experts in their fields.

She told the IN, “The recognition I received brought along many opportunities. It’s allowed others to know that I am a professional in my career field, committed to my community and eager to lead.”

Several of today’s elected officials have been Rising Stars, Councilwoman Megan Pratt, State Rep. Clay Ingram and County Commissioner Lumon May.

“There is no doubt that because of the Rising Stars I came in contact with other like-minded people and made many friendships,” said Rep. Ingram. “Those friendships are the lifeblood of politics. The synergy that comes from working together for a common purpose is invaluable for our community.”

Others have since created their own businesses. Mari Josephs (2011) won last year the Pensacola Business Challenge and has opened Carmen’s Lunch Bar on South Palafox.

“Being selected as a Rising Star helped me believe in me,” said Josephs. “I have always been very self critical and hard on myself. The recognition inspired me to believe more strongly in my path and my goals and to follow my passion.”

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