Regional Econimic Development in Northwest Florida
Jim Hizer talks about Pensacola's push for job creation and strengthening economic partnerships with the military.
Jim Hizer, CCE, CEcD, joined the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce as president/CEO in August 2010. He is responsible for the Chamber’s operating and planning functions, including economic development, armed services, tourism, government affairs and membership. He manages a
$4 million budget and 30 employees.
The Greater Pensacola Chamber’s Vision 2015 initiative is a job creation program focused on recruiting new businesses, helping local businesses expand and strengthening the partnerships between the military and the private sector throughout the two-county region (Escambia and Santa Rosa). It results from several months of studying best practices and setting priorities, and places private business at the forefront of economic development to ensure implementation and accountability.
Job creation is at the heart of any successful economic development effort, and Vision 2015 is no different. By creating 3,000 new primary jobs in the region, this initiative will serve as the catalyst to stimulate existing business growth, improve the available workforce and spearhead community improvements. To date, the Greater Pensacola Chamber has raised more than $8.5 million to support the Vision 2015 initiative, a clear sign of the community’s overall dedication to the success of economic development.
An important first step was to fully staff the Chamber’s economic development department. Last August, we welcomed Scott Luth, senior vice president of economic development. Scott and I worked together in Kentucky, and with his work ethic and deal-closing skills, he is the perfect fit as our economic development leader. The director of business development, director of entrepreneurial development, existing business and workforce manager and administrative assistant complete the team.
Since the beginning of the Vision 2015 campaign, we have announced more than 300 new jobs, with approximately $75 million in payroll and $130 million in capital investment. Businesses that have added jobs include Cronimet Corporation, Hixardt Technologies, Ascend Performance Materials and Custom Control Solutions.
Existing industry is also an important aspect of the program. Last year alone, our team reached out to more than 200 existing businesses, doubling the goal outlined in the Vision 2015 existing business retention/expansion and workforce development strategy. In the past year, six companies received $270,000 in workforce training dollars.
In November of 2011, the Greater Pensacola Chamber hosted the Fifth Annual Strategic Health Intelligence Summit. This summit brings together national leaders in the Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and healthcare organizations as well as private sector innovators to advance information technology as a means to transform healthcare in the 21st century. The focus was on leveraging local, state and national data connections to realize meaningful healthcare outcomes.
In partnership with Pensacola State College and the University of West Florida’s Small Business Development Center, the Chamber established the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. This business incubator targets early-stage technology companies and acts as a catalyst to support innovative entrepreneurs who create jobs that can sustain long-term economic growth for the Pensacola Bay Area. Currently, the occupancy rate at the CIE is more than 80% and continues to grow.
Economic development would not see success without community and product development, and the Chamber is determined to create additional opportunities for economic development prospects. In 2011, the Chamber, in partnership with the Pensacola-Escambia Promotion and Development Commission, finalized the Technology Campus with a goal to create a location for 21st century jobs with a focus on innovation-based businesses. This campus, located in downtown Pensacola, has the ability to accommodate multiple companies with the capacity to be home to more than 1,000 high-wage jobs.
In addition, the Chamber developed the Sites & Buildings Committee, led by Fred Donovan, Jr., which launched a new FAST TRACK program. This program was designed to create a much-needed, cutting-edge database that aids the Chamber in the development of shovel-ready sites and buildings inventory, featuring premier properties in the greater Pensacola area.
Recently, we executed a rebranding process, revamping the Chamber’s website to become a world-class economic development site designed to drive business development opportunities for the greater Pensacola area. To view the economic development site, please visit www.pensacolaregion.com. In the upcoming months, the Chamber will begin a marketing campaign in order to actively market the region to prospective investors and current businesses in the area.
For additional information regarding the Greater Pensacola Chamber, visit www.pensacolachamber.com.