I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Thoughts from the Economic Development Summit

The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners held an economic development summit meeting Tuesday.  After we had brief presentations from Neighborhood services and a discussion about the Brownsville Community Center, we discussed Escambia County and our economic development efforts.

Those who are interested in doing so can watch the video of the meeting here--there was lots of very interesting conversation.

The presentation began with an overview of the demographics of the two-county (Escambia-Santa Rosa) area.  Zach Jenkins, Director of UWF's Haas Center, gave a  presentation that described the median family income, median age, race/ethnicity, and other characteristics of our area as compared to the state and also to the nation.  It was interesting.  of note were the following take-aways:

--employment wise, we have just recently recovered and stabilized our unemployment levels to pre-Great Recession levels

--2,500 new jobs yearly will need to be created in order to keep our unemployment levels at today's rate

--nearly 42,000 persons (out of 500,000 total population in our MSA) are currently not working.

-- a net of roughly 20,000 commuters come to Escambia County to work but live out of Escambia County

--tourist related occupations, while important locally, do not generate much in the way of additional ancillary jobs created when compared to just about every other category of jobs--especially manufacturing and cyber security jobs

--The highest paying segment of jobs, on average, are from the Military and Civilian DoD jobs, followed by the Financial Services Sectors

After Zach gave his presentation, Scott Luth from Florida West gave a presentation on efforts his group is making to increase the jobs base locally.  His focus areas of industry revolve around cultivation of employers who export products, thereby importing new money into the community. 

Areas of focus include the following:

-financial and professional services
-information Technology and Business Process Outsourcing
-Offshore Vessel Service and Support
-Aviation Manufacturing and Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO)
-Defense, Homeland, and Cyber Security

A stirring discussion about employee readiness/preparedness begins at minute 57:05 and continues through minute 71:00 of Items 3 & 6.  In this segment, Luth states that about "90 percent of the issue revolves around employers' concerns about the readiness of the graduates of the schools."  Luth continues "I'm not trying to throw a negative on our schools but I'm told we have to increase that, that level  [ of preparedness] of the students coming out [of the schools locally]."

I spoke about this as well--the emphasis of my comments (67:22) was that we have tremendous social dysfunction, combined with generational dysfunction, mixed with poverty, that is hindering our

 education system locally for a percentage of the graduates.  I re-asserted my belief that this is an issue of some families locally not participating--not a function of substandard teachers or a lack of resources.  The main point I made, and I'll say it again here:  Great Communities make Great Public School Districts--not the other way around.  We need to continue to make our community better and foster a family friendly, work focused community all over the county, and this will improve the schools.  This will take time, lots of time, and much dedication.  There are no quick fixes, no silver bullets.....

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