Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Outtakes: Mid-Year Report

The greater Pensacola area had a strong first six months. The city and county governments didn’t knock off much of their “To Do” lists, but other sectors of our community have done very well.

Private investors are spearheading the revitalization of downtown Pensacola. Quint and Rishy Studer alone are investing tens of millions of dollars into housing, retail businesses, office buildings, a conference center and the University of West Florida Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Switzer family is transforming an entire block of Pensacola. The YMCA is set to begin on construction of its new downtown facility on Jefferson and Intendencia streets. The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is expanding. The Bank of Pensacola opened its impressive downtown branch, and the Rex Theatre is bringing a new vibrancy to north Palafox.

I doubt that few cities of Pensacola’s size are seeing such investment in their downtowns.

Meanwhile, the University of West Florida has rebounded. The school has reorganized and is leading the way in creating the new generation of leaders in cybersecurity, logistics, and entrepreneurship.

Visit Pensacola completed its first year of tourism marketing and has proven that they can effectively handle the challenges of promoting the various treasures for our area without splintering. The group’s update on Destination 2020 effort was very encouraging.

The other spin-off from the Greater Pensacola Chamber, FloridaWest, aims to duplicate Visit Pensacola’s success in the economic development arena.  CEO Scott Luth has shown he knows what he’s doing, and Board President John Hutchinson can help guide the new entity through its first 12 months, just as Collier Merrill did for Visit Pensacola.

Escambia County has dealt with the borrow pits and landfills. However, decisions need to be made on the location of its new jail and whether to partner with ECUA on  a regional recycling facility

The city of Pensacola is an Instagram success, but not so much other arenas. The fish hatchery has been delayed. OHM Concessions Group took over a year to complete its construction at the Pensacola International Airport. The economic development projects at the port and airport have hit snags. We’ve been told everything will work out, but remember we were told that Chick-Fil-A would be serving at the airport by October 2014.

For the rest of 2015, we can expect the private sector to continue driving our renaissance. The county commission will make the decisions on the jail and recycling.

City hall will need to come up some better wins than chicken biscuits.