An extensive nationwide search aimed at recruiting a new billionaire philanthropist to the Pensacola area is underway, city officials announced Thursday.
The City of Pensacola is partnering with the area’s tourism marketing arm, Visit Pensacola, which aims to target billionaires across the country in hopes of enticing them to move to the city and spend their wealth here.
“As Pensacola continues to grow, we really feel we need someone worth a billion dollars rather than just a millionaire,” said Pensacola mayor Ashton Hayward. “You look at Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and so on … every great city has a great billionaire and we don’t want to be setting the bar too low. We’d really like to use the out-of-control wealth inequality that plagues this country to our advantage.”
“With this campaign, we’re looking beyond the top one percent and instead targeting the top one-tenth of a percent,” said Steve Hayes, president of Visit Pensacola. “We’ve taken out billboards in New York City, Seattle, and Nashville hoping we can recruit some obnoxiously rich folks to move down here.”
Officials expect to spend nearly $10 million on the campaign that will go towards placing ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times, along with taking out billboards in the country’s top 10 most expensive zip codes in hopes of catching the eyes of billionaires across the country.
“We’re even offering perks, such as a free mansion on Muscogee Wharf and EDATEs for the first project they build downtown,” said Hayward. “You know what they say, you gotta spend taxpayer money to make money, am I right?”
Hayward said Pensacola has long subsisted with a few good ‘ol boy millionaires buying up downtown properties and land banking them to turn a quick profit, but that “times are changing.”
“We need a fresh face,” Hayward said. “We haven’t had a new old rich guy come along in more than 20 years when we first recruited Quint Studer from Chicago by offering him the keys to a $50 million waterfront baseball park. We feel like we’ve milked him pretty dry.”
Asked what he’d like a new community philanthropist to focus and spend his money on, Hayward said he’d really like to see Pensacola’s westside neighborhoods revitalized with new development.
“There’s really a golden opportunity to gentrify the hell out of the Tanyard and the west side,” Hayward said. “Under my administration, we’ve done a fabulous job of tearing down pretty much all of those old, useless historic buildings. We’ve tried to create a clean slate for some new rich old guys to come in and build characterless condos and artisanal coffee shops on every corner.”
The announcement of a public search comes after city officials have privately undertaken efforts to recruit a billionaire to Pensacola for more than a year. According to multiple unnamed sources, Hayward spent months trying to recruit New York billionaire Donald Trump to move to the city, with Trump meeting with Hayward three times in 2016 under the guise of campaign rallies for his presidential campaign.
Hayward’s efforts were largely successful, according to one unnamed staffer, who said Trump had committed to make a multi-billion dollar investment in Pensacola prior to accidentally winning the presidency last November.
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