Pensacola, Florida
Thursday December 14th 2017

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The Buzz 10/26/17

FlyVPS Continues Growth September was not a good month for the Pensacola International Airport, breaking the airport’s seven-month upward trend. Its passengers dropped 1.3 percent in comparison to September 2016. Year to date, the airport’s passenger growth is up 4.92 percent over the first nine months of last year.

Meanwhile, Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (FlyVPS.com) has continued to have phenomenal passenger growth–up 23.18 percent for September and up 31.45 percent for the year.

Starting April 2018, the Pensacola International Airport will offer through Frontier Airlines three non-stop flights to Denver that will depart on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights, respectively. In May 2018, Frontier Airlines will add two non-flights each week to Chicago that will depart Wednesday and Sunday afternoons.

In a press release, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward called the five new flights “a huge win for Pensacola.”

Finding Talent The latest Florida Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index Survey shows workforce quality and government regulations are the top concerns of Florida’s job creators.

“Businesses are telling us, loud and clear, that in order to grow, they need access to a talented workforce,” said Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation. “The Florida Chamber Foundation’s recent Florida Jobs 2030 report confirms this research by showing that the future of work is changing, and as this quarter’s Small Business Index shows businesses now more than ever need access to a talented workforce.”

He added, “But it’s important to note this Small Business Index shows that businesses are also steadily more concerned about the impact government regulations have on their ability to grow. In order to remain competitive, we should continue to create a business-friendly environment that provides businesses the opportunity and resources to grow and succeed.”

The Florida Chamber’s quarterly Small Business Index statewide survey shows small businesses are most concerned about workforce quality (18 percent), government regulations (17 percent), economic uncertainty (12 percent), healthcare costs (10 percent), lawsuit abuse (8 percent), and access to capital (6 percent).

Of Florida small businesses, 48 percent of respondents expect to hire in the next six months.

“Florida’s small businesses continue to face a number of challenges, including increased concerns about workforce quality and government regulations,” said Tami Fitzpatrick, chair of the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council. “Florida’s economy is dependent on the small business community, and the Florida Chamber’s Small Business Council remains committed to advocating on their behalf.”

Honoring First Responders The Escambia County Republican Party will host its “First Responders Appreciation Night” from 5–7 p.m. at Bayview Park on Monday, Oct. 30. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis will be the featured speaker.

EMTs, paramedics, nurses, doctors, law enforcement officers, firefighters, 911 operators, and other first responders and their families are invited to attend and enjoy a free BBQ dinner provided by Hot Spot Barbecue. The event is open to the public.

Escambia County Republican Party Chairman Kevin Brown noted, “I believe there is no better time to recognize and thank the first responders who work every day for us, regardless of peril to themselves and we are honored that CFO Patronis is joining us in Pensacola for this event.  Along with being a member of the cabinet, CFO Patronis also serves as the State Fire Marshall, so he knows the daily dedication and sacrifice first responders make.”

Donations collected at the event will go to the Greg Evers Florida’s Heroes Memorial Fund which supports Operation American Dream, a 501(c)(3) non-profit providing educational scholarships to the children of Florida first responders who fall in the line of duty.

What Audit? On Sunday, PNJ reporter Joe Baucum wrote about how Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward chose not to implement an energy-efficient project approved by the Pensacola City Council that would have paid for itself in nine years (News Journal, “Escambia County School District, city of Pensacola diverge in tackling utility savings,” Oct. 22).

On Nov. 13, 2012, the city council approved the selection of Siemens Industry to complete an investment grade energy audit of City Facilities, excluding the airport, and bring back for consideration an energy and savings performance-based contract. It was presented by City Administrator Bill Reynolds and Sustainability Administrator Clark Merritt.

Twenty months later, July 17, 2014, the council was given an update on the audit by Matt Ridley of Siemens. The staff contacts were City Administrator Colleen Castille and Merritt, who had been reassigned as Port Business Development Manager.

According to the council memo from Mayor Hayward: “The results of the energy audit were reviewed by staff and working with City Departments a decision was finalized to implement lightning and water conservation improvements which will be incorporated into a performance-based contract.”

The proposal was to be presented to the Pensacola City Council in August. However, Castille resigned abruptly on Aug. 15, 2014. The contract was never brought to the council.

According to the PNJ article, CFO Dick Barker, who served as interim administrator, notified Siemens in 2014 that the mayor chose not to finalize the contract. A review of council minutes for council meeting from August 2014-December 2014 found no mention that the negotiations had stopped. Barker’s monthly financial presentations do not mention the negotiations or their termination. It appears the public and council were never notified the audit recommendations weren’t going to be implemented.

Barker and Mayor Hayward refused to answer questions from the News Journal about the decision.

GM Settles Attorney General Pam Bondi, 48 other state attorneys general and the District of Columbia today announced a $120 million consumer protection settlement with General Motors Company regarding allegations that GM concealed safety issues related to ignition-switch-related defects in GM vehicles. The settlement concludes a multistate investigation into the auto manufacturer’s failure to timely disclose known safety defects in several models of GM vehicles.

In 2014, GM issued seven vehicle recalls in response to unintended key-rotation-related and ignition-switch-related issues that affected more than nine million vehicles in the United States. The recalls involved a defective ignition switch that, under certain conditions, could move out of the run position to the accessory or off position. If this occurred, the driver experienced a loss of electrical systems, including power steering and power brakes. If a collision occurred while the ignition switch was in the accessory or off position, the vehicle’s safety airbags may have also failed to deploy, increasing the risk of serious injury or death in certain types of crashes in which the airbag was otherwise designed to deploy.

Certain employees of GM and General Motors Corporation, which went through bankruptcy in 2009, allegedly knew as early as 2004 that the ignition switch posed a safety defect because it could cause airbag non-deployment. Despite this knowledge, GM personnel decided the defect was not a safety concern and delayed making recalls. GM continued to market the reliability and safety of motor vehicles equipped with this defective ignition switch.

Florida’s share of the settlement is more than $6 million. The settlement is pending judicial approval.

Cox Digital Academy Cox Communications has launched the Cox Digital Academy, an expansion of its Connect2Compete (C2C) program. Available to parents, students and educators seeking to improve their digital skills, the Cox Digital Academy provides free online educational resources and training to increase digital competency in education, jobs, housing, social media, and more.

“After nearly two decades of offering low-income access programs and connecting families to the internet, the Cox Digital Academy is a natural extension of our Connect2Compete program that better equips children and parents to maximize the power of those connections with online tools,” said Pat Esser, Cox Communications president.

“Access is an important first step, but digital literacy must be maximized to ensure that we close the digital divide for children and enable them to compete in the modern marketplace.”

Cox Communications was the first to support the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s ConnectHome initiative and K-12 families in HUD communities within Cox markets automatically qualify for our C2C program.

Since 2012, more than a quarter million people have been connected to the internet via Cox’s Connect2Compete (C2C) program. For more information, or to sign up for Connect2Compete visit connect2compete.org/cox.