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As I travel between my businesses in New Orleans, Destin, and across the country, I tell people all the time: Pensacola is open for business.

There’s an energy in this city that’s palpable from the moment you set foot on its historic streets. Downtown Pensacola has blossomed, thanks to the hard work and investment of many in the private sector, along with strong city leadership. Pensacola’s downtown has once again become the vibrant, beating heart of the entire region, with some of the best dining, nightlife, and retail anywhere along the Gulf Coast.

Pensacola Cigar Factory features a full bar, walk-in humidor and event space. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

Thanks to the outstanding work by Biggs Construction and Buffy Southern of Southern Realty Gulf Coast, last year we celebrated the opening of the fourth Cigar Factory location on South Palafox Street, recognized as one of the “Great Streets in America.” Throughout that process — from conception to construction, to the moment we opened the doors in November — I’ve been humbled by the support, enthusiasm, and cooperation we’ve received from the community.

Pensacola is a special place, and while the beautiful, sugar-white beaches and the Spanish streets steeped in centuries of rich history are a big part of that, it’s also because of the people. The love that Pensacolians have for their city, and the sense of excitement and optimism they feel, is contagious. That’s why I chose to invest here.

With the original Cigar Factory located in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter, I know firsthand how challenging it can be to navigate complex regulations and make sure all the necessary permits and approvals are obtained. Mayor Ashton Hayward and his staff have been incredibly helpful and helped make the process as straightforward as possible for my team.

As impressive as Pensacola’s growth in recent years has been, I believe the future is even brighter as new projects and developments fuel Pensacola’s momentum. New buildings are rising and historic buildings like the nearby Blount and Brent Buildings on Palafox Street are enjoying new life thanks to new investment. New hotels are opening, and in the coming years, thousands of new residents will move into Downtown Pensacola.

The Cigar Factory Pensacola opened in 2017 and is already undergoing expansion plans. (Drew Buchanan/The Pulse)

All of this provides a strong foundation upon which both the downtown core and Pensacola as a whole can continue to grow and thrive.

As we look to the future, I want to thank everyone who has welcomed me and my business to Pensacola with open arms. I’ve enjoyed getting to know each of you and welcoming many of you as customers at the Cigar Factory. Each day, Pensacola’s momentum is growing. I couldn’t be happier with my decision to grow my business here, and I’m excited to see what the future holds for America’s first city.

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