Bay County EDA's Janet Watermeier talks personal

Even when Janet Watermeier is relaxing, she’s thinking — perhaps subconsciously — about economic activity.

Rain Maker Janet Watermeier, PANAMA CITY
Director, Bay County Economic Development Alliance By Jason Dehart Originally published in the Aug/Sep 2010 issue of 850 Magazine

Even when Janet Watermeier is relaxing, she’s thinking — perhaps subconsciously — about economic activity.

“I happen to live on St. Andrews Bay, and looking over the water, it’s beautiful to watch the boats and planes go by,” she said. “All the activity is very relaxing.”

Watermeier was hired in 2009 to oversee what might be considered the dawn of a brave new era in Panama City as the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport makes its presence felt across the region. Planes, boats and even highways all play into that broad economic tapestry.

“I thought it would be fun to be here for the next 10 to 15 years and to help shape the economic future of not only Bay County but all of Northwest Florida,” she said. “You have to think in terms of regions today. Northwest Florida is a unique part of Florida.”

Watermeier has more than 15 years of experience dealing with private and public economic development. When she was the economic development director of Lee County in Southwest Florida, she brokered the creation of almost 5,000 jobs in 105 target industries. However, during her time in South Florida she constantly kept her eyes on the growth potential of Bay County.

“I’ve been watching it for 12 years,” she said. “It’s an incredible area between Pensacola and Tallahassee. There’s available land, people have great hospitality and they have a desire to grow in a positive way.”

First job? I was 13 and living in Madrid in a dorm. I collected laundry for the whole dorm, carried it to the washroom, and once it was washed, I would carry it back and distribute it.

When do you relax? I’m one of those people who loves what I do and probably works too much, but it’s fun for me, particularly when we’re making progress.

Last vacation? Over Memorial Day weekend I visited my mother in Punta Gorda, and prior to that my husband and I took a nice cruise. Traveling is something we like to do when we have the opportunity and the time.

Managing the ‘to-do’: I try to manage it all on the computer. I have a touchscreen tablet notebook, and you can physically write into it. You can write on the laptop and save it and have it with you all the time.

Role model: My mother. She is a wonderful lady. She’ll be 80 and works every day teaching computer software, mostly to seniors. She taught us to care about people and be flexible in everything we did. You carry those values forever.

Definition of ‘home-cooked meal’: Anything you can cook in a microwave. Cooking is not one of my strengths.

Retail therapy: I spend time in both the Panama City Mall and Pier Park, and both are great places to shop. If I want to go to the beach, have fun and walk the streets, I go to Pier Park, and if I’m shopping for business clothes, I tend to go to the Panama City Mall.

On the bookshelf: “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy.” It tracks a T-shirt from the time it starts as cotton in Texas, then as fabric in North Carolina, and moves overseas to be constructed and dyed, and shipped back. It’s fascinating, all the hands that touch it in this global economy.

Newspaper or blog? Online newspapers.