Confidence, Jack Nicklaus said, is the most important single factor in golf, and no matter how great your natural talent, there is only one way to obtain and sustain it: work. The same can be said about Pensacola’s economic development. Regardless of our natural assets, to ensure that businesses and individuals continue to invest in our community they must be confident that their investments will be rewarded. The only way to gain their confidence is to work at it.
Looking back at 2015 all indications are that regional business and consumer confidence is growing. Local businesses created new jobs and the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 %; new home construction in the city rose by 150% – from north to south and east to west the signs of growth are clear to see. 79% of the people who responded to the 2015 PYP Quality of Life Survey believe that Pensacola is headed in the right direction. A similar number expressed solid confidence in the vision and leadership of the city. We are clearly on the right path.
Our challenge for 2016 is to sustain that confidence and leverage it for the benefit of everyone in Pensacola. The same survey pointed out that the economy remains the top concern. As a result we will continue to focus on economic growth in 2016 and beyond. There are times when economic development is secondary to other policy considerations – not irrelevant, but secondary. For the next three years that will not often be the case. Our goal will be to create conditions that allow businesses to flourish and that encourage people to live, work and play in Pensacola.
A safe, attractive, well-managed city is our starting point. This year we will continue to support the programs that have kept our crime rates at historic lows, to invest in enhancements to our parks and roadways and to optimize how we deliver our core city services. In addition there are some specific projects that we will begin work on this year that will boost confidence in the future of our city. This time next year expect to see development of surplus city property. Our vision is to see that city-owned land is made available for private development in a manner that will be a model for the future. We will also start planning for the replacement of Fire Station #3 and the Bayview Community Center. Our goal is to complete the planning, design and permitting this year so that construction can begin in early 2017.
By the end of this year there will be a new downtown hotel, facilities to support the Pensacola Bay ferry system and an innovative stormwater pond at Corinne Jones Park. We will also see the development of the old PNJ property, new facilities for IHMC and continued downtown business growth. All of these improvements will require careful consideration of parking solutions. Consequently, we will decide whether or not a new parking garage is needed downtown and, if so, where it should be located and how it can be financed. By anticipating future growth and planning for it we will ensure that businesses can invest with confidence.
As the result of partnerships, hard work and a common vision, Pensacola is now experiencing rapid growth. Every employee and city official has played a role in our success but ultimately the credit goes to the residents and businesses who have shown that they are confident in our future by investing their time, talent and money. Fueled by an engaged community we have been able to create a climate conducive to entrepreneurial growth and development; because of it, our city’s best days are ahead of us.