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LET US HELP YOU NAVIGATE TAX REFORM. The biggest U.S. tax reform since 1986 consists of sweeping changes for individuals and businesses impacting tax planning, compliance, financial reporting, auditing, internal controls and more. Let us help you navigate how this may affect your business and your personal financial plans. Give us a call at 850.435.7400.

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Florida | Alabama | Georgia


2018 Property Insurance Update: What Could Happen to Your Rates? By Reid Rushing, President of Insurance at Beck Partners 2017 was a record year for catastrophic insured losses. So far, estimates for Hurricane Maria are more than $90 billion in losses, Hurricane Irma is at $50 billion and Hurricane Harvey is at $125 billion. While the 2017 hurricane season was bad, we still had other losses such as the Mexico earthquake resulting in $3 billion in losses and the California fires with over $18 billion in losses. Other events throughout the world listed losses exceeding $20 billion. Last year was hard for the property insurance markets. How will all of this will affect you in 2018? Most property insurance carriers also buy insurance against catastrophe losses and excessive losses within a given year. This insurance purchase is reinsurance. The reinsurance market is a global insurance market. What does this mean? An event in Japan can adversely affect the pricing for companies in the U.S. that purchase through these global reinsurance markets. The amount of losses the market felt in 2017 may weaken the capital for some of these reinsurers and increase the risk of financial downgrades. We may find that pricing for the reinsurance may go up in 2018 if the carriers have to seek out capital to balance their losses and earnings this year. As an early sign of the struggling market, many of the major reinsurers have already publicized their profit and earning warnings earlier in October. With over 13 years of few to no large catastrophic events, many of the commercial property markets in Florida have benefited. They have been purchasing good amounts of reinsurance programs to protect their overall surplus. Florida has also changed its building codes to REID RUSHING, PRESIDENT OF INSURANCE be more resistant AT BECK PARTNERS

to wind damage. That has allowed the carriers to reduce their rates on newer construction. We have seen the premiums slide downwards for the past several years due to few hurricanes over the last decade. We have even seen rates come in lower than pre-2004/2005-year rates on some projects. With the anticipated increase in reinsurance rates, many companies and brokers are starting to forecast a gradual increase in property rates in Florida and the rest of the U.S. overall. One of our brokers stated that some of the December renewals are coming in at 5 percent higher rates this year over last year’s. Others are expecting rate increases to be about 10 percent overall in 2018. The riskier properties are expected to see rate increases 20-30 percent over the next year. These rate increases are still subject to the reinsurance treaty renewals that the insurance carriers negotiate and purchase. What does all of this mean to you and your properties? First, budget for an increase. Talk to your agent and find out what they are anticipating at least four months before the renewal date. There may be things you can do to the property to make it more appealing to the insurance carriers. Be proactive with your property and do not neglect maintenance and upkeep. Many carriers want to see updates within the last 15 years on the major systems of the building (roof, plumbing, electrical, HVAC). If you are leasing out your building, make sure that you have the right type of tenants for your building. Having a bar or restaurant in a building may be more expensive than having just retail and offices. Also, a building that has more than 30 percent vacancy can see higher rate increases. The main idea is to not wait and see what your premiums and rates are going to do. Plan for the increases and budget for them. Be proactive, and you may find your increases lower than the rest of the market.

“Be proactive, and you may find your increases lower than the rest of the market.�

The full story will be released in our annual publication dedicated to providing valuable business resources, Insight. If you are interested in learning more about the publication, please reach out to Maggie Whittemore at 850.477.7044 or

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PRESIDENT/PUBLISHER BRIAN E. ROWLAND EDITORIAL DIRECTOR OF EDITORIAL SERVICES Steve Bornhoft MANAGING EDITOR Laura Cassels STAFF WRITERS Hannah Burke, Erin Hoover CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Kari C. Barlow, Rosanne Dunkelberger, Michael Moline, Thomas J. Monigan, Liesel Schmidt, T.S. Strickland




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T RAVEL PUBLICITY Travel writers have

always loved the area’s beaches, but now they also are reporting about its history, dining, culture and sports.

8 H ERITAGE TOURISM Pensacola has

European colonial origins and notable African-American roots, right at the center of debate about preserving and marketing history and heritage.



story pediatric hospital will open in 2019. Preview it here, by the numbers.

14 HIGHER EDUCATION The University of

West Florida and Pensacola State College are achieving new heights and attracting the attention of top freshmen.


The nation’s largest retail credit union serves 7.5 million members and continues to grow.

20 N AS PENSACOLA The Cradle of Naval

Aviation is taking in two Coast Guard cutters this year, employing solar energy and training cyberwarriors.

26 PORT PENSACOLA Old economies

are giving way to new as the port eyes a future in science and research.

30 MARITIME PARK The bayfront

park, created with public and private investments, is fueling prosperity downtown and giving baseball fans reason to cheer.

ON THE COVER: The Department of Defense goes green, building massive solar farms on three Northwest Florida bases, while old ways are increasingly attractive to fans of Pensacola’s colonial history and multicultural diversity. Cover photos: Solar panels at NAS Pensacola, historic reenactor of the Jacksonian Guard, and 5 Sisters Blues Cafe, dishing up Southern food and live blues. PHOTOS BY DEREK FEREBEE (OFFICER) AND COURTESY OF CORONAL ENERGY / CORONALENERGY.COM (SOLAR PANELS) AND VISIT PENSACOLA (5 SISTERS BLUES CAFÉ) |

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he Pensacola area might not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of taking a vacation to Florida. But while jockeying for position amid such well-known racehorses as Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld, the theme park-less destination attracted more than 2 million

A young explorer crosses the drawbridge at Fort Barrancas, a national historic site. Situated on bluffs overlooking Pensacola Bay, the Spanish fort built by enslaved people served as a coastal defense against invaders.

travelers in 2017 — worth more than $787 million to the local economy. “If you truly want to experience the Sunshine State, Pensacola offers stunning uncrowded beaches, amazing food, sensational attractions, and 450 years of rich history and culture. This city is more than a pretty face — she has a long and colorful past, and we’re proud of who we are,” said Nicole Stacey, director of marketing and communications at Visit Pensacola, the tourism-marketing organization. Travel writers say one draw of the city is that it retains its unique identity, culture and historical authenticity. Renowned for its natural beauty, this coastal city beckons travel writers to explore the Gulf beaches and then the charming downtown scene. “We’re known for our beaches, which are ranked among the best in the country,” says Stacey. “In 2017, Pensacola Beach was voted ‘Most Beautiful Place in the State’ by Conde Nast Traveler and was in TripAdvisor’s ‘Top 10 Beaches in the U.S.’  ” The presence of the Pensacola Ice Flyers, the city’s professional ice hockey team, and the Blue Wahoos, the city’s minor league baseball team, also are cited in visitor surveys as major reasons for traveling to the area.

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Historic sites are a consistent draw, marketed under the slogan “City of Five Flags.” The flags represent the five governments that have held power here: Spain, France, the United Kingdom, the Confederacy and the USA. Pensacola has the earliest Spanish roots in what is now the continental U.S., and Pensacola Beach played a notable role in the Civil War, making the region a rich destination for lovers of history. From the ruins of Fort Pickens on Pensacola Beach to Fort Barrancas across the water, to the 1859 Pensacola Lighthouse and Naval Air Station Pensacola, travel writers have found much to recommend to their readers. A key attraction along these lines is the U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron — the revered Blue Angels that call this place home. The squadron flies in precision formations over the city and Gulf waters during routine practices from March to November and holds public air shows in July and November that attract thousands of visitors. Southern Living magazine recommends the National Naval Aviation Museum as a must-see in its online article, “A Weekend in Pensacola.” Other articles recommend the region’s museums and historic sites, which


← Gulf Coast National Seashore and coastal landmarks such as the Pensacola Lighthouse are key points of interest. ↓ In downtown Pensacola, the Historic Village, several art and history museums and a surge of retailers offering all things artisanal are attracting the attention of travel media.

include the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Florida State Museum; Historic Pensacola Village; the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum; and various other one-of-a-kind spots that have earned accolades from travel writers in the United States and abroad. “A great way to get your bearings is to join a Segway tour … around the historic district, (which offers) an educational and entertaining experience learning about the British, Spanish and French colonial influences and how they have shaped the city during the past 450 years,” recommends writer Lucy Pares of the U.K.-based Family Traveller. Pares goes on to describe how Historic Pensacola Village represents some of the earliest European history in the continental United States. Like many European travel publications enamored of Florida beaches, Family Traveller raved about the “unspoilt coastline” at Gulf Islands National Seashore and the abundance of wildlife to be seen there. Showcases of local artistry within the historic parameters of the city also have been well-received by travel writers, who remarked on the quality of the Pensacola Ballet and the charm of hearing national headliners in concert at the Saenger

Theatre, on the National Register of Historic Places. The region also is growing a reputation for travel-worthy festivals, including November’s two-week-long Foo Foo Fest featuring art, theater, music, street buskers, public art installations and an array of other high-quality experiences. “The Foo Foo Festival is … packed with experiences and entertainment that will enlighten all of your senses. From a tango opera to stand-up comedians, (it) will create memories that will last a lifetime,” wrote Huffington Post reporter Loren Browne in her article “The Best Festival of the Year — Foo Foo Festival, Pensacola Florida.” The culinary scene — built on fresh seafood and spiced with international flair — also is drawing attention and attracting talented chefs. In fact, Pensacola has boasted five prestigious James Beard chefs over the years. Jane and Michael Stern, featured on NPR’s “Splendid Table” radio program and posting “authentic regional easts” on their site, raved about Jerry’s Drive-In, 5 Sisters Blues Café, Capt. Joey Patti’s Seafood Restaurant and Peg Leg Pete’s Oyster Bar. Stacey said Visit Pensacola’s marketing

efforts have done well with travel writers because the destination appeals to many audiences represented in travel media — from professional women on girlfriend getaways to couples on romantic vacations to families wanting wholesome fun in a beautiful, relaxing setting. “Our beaches are unlike any others, we have amazing cuisine because of all of the fresh Gulf Coast seafood and Southern flavors, and we have a rich history that is still celebrated along with the vibrancy of our progressive development downtown,” she said. StyleBlueprint blogger Lisa Mowry concurred in her article “48 Hours in Pensacola.” She wrote: “Destinations like Pensacola offer the best of both worlds: long walks on sandy beaches and every ocean activity you can think of, mixed with a dose of city culture.” Candice Walsh of Canadian Traveller, reported, “Pensacola is a wonderfully laid-back, chilled-out town; its diverse culture and coastal lifestyle appeal to many. When you’re done with exploring Pensacola’s natural beauty, hit the downtown core around historic Palafox Street  for boutique shopping, gourmet eats and some lively local atmosphere.”

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n April, Pensacola will play host to the inaugural Tall Ships Festival, welcoming a fleet of historic vessels for a three-day celebration of the port city’s storied maritime past. The event, organized by Visit Pensacola, is part of a much larger push to market the city’s historical resources to tourists. This effort comes at a time when downtown Pensacola is growing rapidly and tensions over historic preservation and cultural representation have, at times, run high.


More than three of every four American leisure travelers will take part in some sort of cultural or heritage activity while

traveling. That’s according to an oft-cited national survey conducted by Mandala Research in 2013. That equates to some 130 million people — and billions of dollars in economic activity. Pensacola, which has long vied with St. Augustine for historical bragging rights, is well-positioned to benefit from these tourists — and their pocketbooks. “It’s a big market,” Visit Pensacola President Steve Hayes said in December, shortly after presenting the results of the organization’s 2017 market perception study.

From left, Trevor Odom, Morgan Churchill, Cole Stevenson and Johnathan Woodward reenact the 1821 transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States as was overseen by Gov. Andrew Jackson.

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Hayes, though optimistic about the potential for growth, was quick to add that the area’s historical resources were not a primary motivator for visitors. The No. 1 reason people visit Pensacola is, and likely always will be, the area’s beaches. “As a key driver, historical offerings and attractions, across all the generations, are a low priority,” Hayes said. The results of Hayes’ study bear that point out. Of more than 1,000 prospective visitors surveyed, only 41 percent listed historical attractions as a key driver in their travel planning process. Still, Hayes said it was crucial to market those assets because they set Pensacola apart from other Gulf Coast beach destinations. “It’s what makes us different, what we can hang our hat on that others can’t,” he said. In that regard, Pensacola still has a ways to go. According to the study, the city still lags behind other Gulf Coast destinations across a range of metrics, and, in terms of historical resources, most visitors still perceive St. Augustine as the more attractive destination, with only 31 percent ranking Pensacola as “very positive” in this regard.


This shouldn’t come as a surprise, Hayes said. Much of St. Augustine’s history is still visible — a luxury Pensacola does not enjoy. “It’s nice they have a fort that was made of seashells and has lasted,” Hayes said. “Our forts were made of wood, and they’re below the surface.” Overcoming this challenge demands a two-pronged strategy. “You can’t bring the forts above ground,” Hayes said, “but you can tell the stories.” In recent years, this is where Visit Pensacola has placed much of its focus. “We’ve really changed our messaging,” Hayes said. “Before, there was a greater emphasis on just telling the beach story. Now, we’re doing a better job of telling the rest.” Aside from marketing, Hayes said the community needed to find more creative ways of making its history visual. He pointed to the work of the University of West Florida as an example.


Reenactors teach the colonial craft of candle dipping at Historic Pensacola Village. Destination marketers consider the city’s history, dating back more than 450 years, a significant economic asset.

The University’s 8-acre downtown campus, known as Historic Pensacola, includes dozens of colonial-era structures, several museums and year-round living history demonstrations. In 2015, UWF unveiled its new interpretive master plan for the campus, which called for $10$15 million in enhancements, all aimed at making the city’s rich history more accessible to residents and tourists. “Our goal in the near future is to put Pensacola on the list of great historic cities in America,” Jerry Maygarden, chairman of the UWF Historic Trust Board, said at the time. “We want visitors to think of us along with cities such as Savannah, Charleston and Gettysburg.” In the two years since, UWF has extended museum hours, expanded its living history programs and added new outdoor

interpretive displays. This year, the Trust also joined with Visit Pensacola to create the Jacksonian Guard, a monthly reenactment of the 1821 transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States, which was overseen by then-Gov. Andrew Jackson. Pensacola tour operator Wesley Odom was a driving force behind the latter effort. Odom, a history buff who has staked his future on the city’s past, founded GoRetro Tours in 2013. He said he’s seen his business increase four-fold in the last two years, driven largely by demand from the heritage tourism sector. Still, challenges remain. Odom said that further growth had been hampered by a shortage of lodging downtown and a lack of connectivity to the tourist mecca of Pensacola Beach. “The beaches are 10 miles from downtown,”

he said, “and another 10 miles from the National Naval Aviation Museum, which is the most popular tourist destination.” A spate of new hotel developments planned for downtown, along with the opening of the Pensacola Bay Ferry Service, should help, Odom said. The walk-on service — which will ferry passengers between downtown, Pensacola Beach and Gulf Islands National Seashore — is expected to begin operation this spring. “Once people visit Pensacola and see how much more there is than just the beach, they will want to explore and return for more,” Odom said.


If this promise is to be fulfilled, of course, there has to be something to which people can return.

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the house relocated to our property … and will repurpose it as a community asset that tourists will be able to enjoy in 2018,” Reshard said.

The Voices of Pensacola Multicultural Center celebrates the racial and cultural diversity of the city’s heritage, while conflicts simmer between historic preservation and building new.

The last five years have brought a surge of new construction in downtown Pensacola. Health-care consultant Quint Studer, alone, has invested some $100 million into the ongoing revitalization of his adopted hometown. Much of this money has gone into adaptive reuse projects that have strengthened the city’s historic fabric. Other developers, eager to cash in on Pensacola’s budding renaissance, haven’t been so sensitive. Tour operator Nic Schuck, like Odom, has bet big on the city’s future as a heritage tourism destination. Now, he sees both promise and risk in the rush toward development. “I think more residents downtown will be huge,“ Schuck said. “... but I’m afraid, if growth is not accomplished slowly and carefully, we may lose our unique culture in exchange for a bland brand that, while it may make money, isn’t anything to be proud of or have any long-standing promise.” Robin Reshard — a film-maker and community activist who has also served on the board of Visit Pensacola — agreed.

“We risk not having a culture, heritage or ‘sense of place’ to celebrate if we don’t figure how to use smart engineering to repurpose our built environment,” she said. Reshard pointed to last year’s demolition of the historic John Sunday House as an example of how to do things the wrong way. The 1901 structure, demolished to make room for a now-scuttled townhome development, had once been home to one of the city’s most prominent African American leaders. The loss, which came after months of public demonstrations and procedural wrangling, inspired Reshard to push back. She and her husband, Lloyd, were the driving force behind the successful relocation this year of the D’Alemberte House, a 19th century cottage that had been threatened by yet-another townhome development. She called that project a “win-win” and a model for how to balance the interests of development and preservation. “Because of (the neighborhood residents’) voices and the willingness of the developers to listen and empathize with the community, we were able to have

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The Sunday House and D’Alemberte House episodes highlighted another fault line in the growth of the heritage tourism sector in Pensacola: the issue of representation. Both homes were located in the Belmont-DeVilliers district, a neighborhood that served as the center of commerce and entertainment for the city’s African-American residents through the Jim Crow era. The district fell on hard times through the latter half of the 20th century, but it has seen a wave of investment in recent years. Now, Reshard and others are working hard to ensure this growth doesn’t come at the expense of the community’s history. “Culture is not monolithic,” Reshard said. “It belongs to us all. If we only celebrate one arc of a circle, then we are not complete. Pensacola has the opportunity to include more voices.” Despite setbacks, the trend lines are positive, Reshard said, and bright spots aren’t hard to find. The UWF Historic Trust partnered with Gulf Power in 2015 to establish the Voices of Pensacola museum with the goal of highlighting the city’s multicultural roots. Visit Pensacola also has tried to introduce more diversity into its marketing efforts. Hayes said the organization’s brochure about multicultural history was its most requested publication this year. Visit Pensacola also highlighted the city’s African-American history in a recent television ad — which featured Reshard. Still, the filmmaker said more remains to be done. “We can include more diverse visuals in our public and private advertising,” she said. “We can be intentional about acknowledging who and what are missing at the table. We can be inclusive in talking about the people who helped to make Pensacola great.”



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motivated, and ready workforce.

Our labor force of over 74,000 puts ready-to-work people in your sights. Plus, with more than 34,000 military retirees, area companies can access the largest concentration of retired military (and their spouses) in the nation. More than anything, we’re committed to expanding our workforce through Santa Rosa County’s excellent education system and extensive Career Pathways programs. Low labor costs and a skilled, motivated workforce make Santa Rosa County an ideal partner for growing your business.

Ready to hit the ground running in Northwest Florida? Contact Shannon Ogletree today. (850) 623-0174 • or visit 2018 E S C A M B I A C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 11





$85 million Cost of the new Studer Family Children’s Hospital


Level II and III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit rooms

$30 million Community’s contribution to cost


Pediatric oncology rooms

Ten Pediatric Intensive Care Unit rooms

Medical/surgical patient rooms included in project

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Physicians’ specialties represented at existing children’s hospital


Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola is expanding its commitment to children’s health with the addition of a new four-story pediatric facility to be known as The Studer Family Children’s Hospital. The hospital, expected to open in 2019, is being built in front of the existing 117-bed Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, which annually serves more than 35,000 patients from Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. It is the only hospital in Northwest Florida dedicated exclusively to children.

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igher education is doing its share to put the Pensacola area on the map. For its flagship institutions — the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College — the past year has been marked by major changes. The schools celebrated notable milestones, garnered national recognition and expanded their reach well beyond the borders of Escambia County. PSC kicked off 2017 with a bang when it won the prestigious Bellwether Award in the Instructional Programs and Services category. The college was selected from more than 2,500 initial applicants for its virtual tutoring program, which offers students assistance in math, anatomy, physiology and chemistry. Often described as the Heisman Trophy for colleges, the Bellwether is competitively judged by peers in community colleges across the United States, with no cash award. “I am so proud of the hard work and dedication to our students exhibited by so many of our employees,” PSC President Ed Meadows said. “This project is a prime example of that hard work and dedication that has resulted in significant improvement in retention and grade attainment for our students.” UWF started the year under the new leadership of Martha Saunders, who was officially installed April 2017 as the university’s sixth president. On the athletic front, the UWF’s football team — only in its second year — had a dream season, finishing as the Division II National Runner Up after losing to Texas A&M Commerce in the championship game in December. “This past year has been magical,” Saunders said. “UWF celebrated its 50th anniversary in fine style and charted a bold course for the next 50 years.”

UWF President Martha Saunders’ campaign to recruit top scholars resulted in nine incoming freshmen accepting academic scholarships last fall worth more $50,000 each. From left are Cameron Wakeland, Cara Womacks, Diana Hanks, Dr. Saunders, William Philips, Michaela Folkins, Aleigh Rowe, Hannah Funk, Leah Thornton and Sophia Giddens. Their intended fields of study range from mechanical engineering to social work.

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In June 2017, UWF saw months of hard work pay off when it posted dramatic academic gains, ranking in the top three among all state universities on the Board of Governors Performance Based Funding Metrics. Only one year before, UWF had failed to meet any of the new benchmarks — which include freshman retention rates, academic progress, percentage of students earning bachelor’s degrees without excess hours, the median wages of graduates employed full-time one year after graduation and tuition costs — and missed out on millions in state funding. Under Saunders’ guidance, the university made its greatest improvements in the

“We’ve expanded enrollment in our nursing and health sciences area, and our cyber security program has tripled in enrollment this past year.” In U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Colleges 2018” rankings, PSC tied for fourth among regional public colleges in the South. It ranked 28th among overall best regional colleges in the South, 147th in best undergraduate engineering programs among national colleges and universities and 11th on the publication’s list of best schools for veterans among national universities. In fall 2017, less than a year after it won the Bellwether Award for virtual tutoring, PSC learned it had also been selected as one

“It was a good year for us. We’ve expanded enrollment in our nursing and health sciences area, and our cyber security program has tripled in enrollment this past year.” Meadows


percentage of bachelor’s graduates enrolled in a postgraduate program or employed and earning an annual salary of $25,000 or more — which increased by 6.6 percent to 67.6 percent. Other gains included a 4.7-percent increase in students earning bachelor’s degrees without excess hours for a total of 80.5 percent. The higher ranking netted UWF, which has an enrollment of just under 12,000 students — more than $20 million in additional state funding for the 2017-2018 academic year. “This is great news for UWF and a testimony to the hard work of the entire campus over the past few years,” Saunders said. Saunders said a key factor in the school’s overall improvement was focusing on recruiting students who would be successful at UWF, and in August 2017, UWF welcomed three National Merit Scholars to its freshman class. At PSC, which is home to roughly 26,000 students, the spring and summer 2017 enrollment increased by 4.3 percent and 8.1 percent, respectively. Fall enrollment also improved, increasing by 5.4 percent for a fall-to-fall retention rate of 60 percent. “It was a good year for us,” Meadows said.

of 10 finalists for the 2018 Bellwether. This time around, it was the college’s Century Center Mobile Welding Training Program receiving accolades. The program has seen much success, resulting in the shipyard in Mobile, Alabama, providing transportation for Century residents to get to those jobs. “It’s really amazing,” Meadows said. “That’s been a blessing for the Century community, which is our poorest area of the county. It has literally lifted up that community and put a lot of people to work.”


Both schools have taken great steps to respond to specific workforce needs of the greater Pensacola area. In June 2017, Saunders and her team debuted the UWF Innovation Network, a program that will launch students into occupations and careers in areas that promote economic recovery, diversification and enhancement. “We are leveraging our current assets in Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach to create unique partnerships through the creation of knowledge clusters in cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and coastal communities,” Saunders said. “Selected academic programs

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are coming together to collaborate with K12, state colleges, community, industry, military, early learning and others to create experiences in living labs to produce big idea projects.” Other examples of progress on UWF’s main Pensacola campus include the opening of its new University Park facility, which will house the dean’s offices of the Usha Kundu, M.D. College of Health, FSU’s regional medical college, and the new football program training rooms. PSC officials, using data collected from analyzing the local and regional labor market, will consider multiple new program offerings. One of those plans would add a cyber forensics concentration to the existing cyber security program, which is growing in popularity and currently has almost 400 students. “It’s a huge and growing workforce need for almost any business, banking, any financial institution,” Meadows said. “This (cyber security) has become a pretty good hub.” PSC also just received a grant to start a truck driver certification program. “There is a huge labor shortage of certified truck drivers, particularly for large firms like J.B. Hunt and Schneider,” Meadows said. Another possible program is an entrepreneurial business degree. “Lots of people have a good idea, but they don’t have the skills and knowledge to actually manage it,” Meadows said. “They don’t know how to write a business plan. They don’t know how to get the financing, and they don’t know how to market it. … I think statistics bear out that those are the kinds of things everyone should have under their belt.” Also on the PSC drawing board are a lineman training program to support cable and power companies and a new retail management apprenticeship. In 2018, PSC will celebrate its 70th anniversary, and Meadows anticipates another exceptional year. Whatever changes come, he added, PSC will remain responsive to its local communities. Saunders echoed those sentiments. “We will continue to press forward as a spirited community of learners,” she said. “UWF will focus on providing high-impact learning experiences so that our students can achieve their educational goals in a timely fashion and move energetically into successful careers.”




First Place Partners ESCAMBIA/SANTA ROSA



We have a unique mission — the only organization dedicated to supporting economic development and promoting growth for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

We have a board of directors elected annually by the membership. We have three levels of membership — voting members, associate members and publicly funded organizations. We will be a 100 percent privately funded, 501(C)(6) organization.

We will work closely with Florida West and the Santa Rosa Economic Development Department to provide resources — both financial and intellectual — to support existing business creation and expansion, to attract new business to the area and to be a voice for economic growth. We will work to coordinate efforts and collaborate engagement of government, education and the business community to promote economic growth.

Our 2018 board of directors: Keith Hoskins, President Donnie McMahon, Vice President Ed Carson, Secretary David Bear, Treasurer Kara Cardona Fred Donovan, Jr. Mark Faulkner Donna Tucker Carleton Ulmer


Escambia and Santa Rosa counties are one Metropolitan Statistical Area — one economy. They have one interstate, one university, one state college, one commercial airport. They have common medical facilities, workforce development organizations and one population that crosses county lines tens of thousands of times a day. Having one economic development support organization not only makes sense, but it also means a much more efficient use of financial resources, talent, site inventory, etc. Bottom line — it means we will be more competitive in growing jobs for the regions.

HOW TO JOIN When you get right down to it, Economic Development is up to us — the people who live, work and play in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Working with government and education, the private business sector has a vital role to play in job attraction, retention and expansion. Now is the time to join First Place Partners, the private sector economic development organization for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. Learn more about membership by contacting John Hutchinson at or call (850) 324-0099. 2018 E S C A M B I A C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 17




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substantial: Today, Navy Federal employs 6,200 workers in Pensacola with a payroll of $270 million. And those jobs offer excellent salaries and benefits. For example, a member service representative earns an average $44,649 in salary and additional cash compensation, above the Florida average. Other benefits at Navy Federal include a 401(k) match, company-paid health insurance for employees and their families, benefits for part-time workers, tuition reimbursement, and onsite amenities including food service and basic health care.   Clay Ingram, who represents the area in the state House of Representatives and also serves as president and CEO of the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, characterizes Navy Federal’s investment as a “generational game changer.”



office at the start of the 21st century. What hen it comes to rolling out was not obvious was that the needs of the red carpet for America’s Navy Federal’s customers and the vision veterans, the Emerald Coast of state and local leaders would dovetail takes a back seat to nowhere. Just into a blueprint to bring 10,000 jobs with ask Navy Federal Credit Union, a payroll that will ultimately total $425 the financial services behemoth that found million and a $1 billion capital investment a second home in Escambia County and is into the local economy by 2026. growing by leaps and bounds. Navy Federal opened its Pensacola office Navy Federal is headquartered in in 2003, and the company’s leaders soon Vienna, Virginia, where it was founded at came to appreciate the competence and the height of the Great Depression. At the work ethic of the local workforce, not to end of 1933, Navy Federal had 49 members, mention the weather, the beaches, and the 18 borrowers and assets of $450. From that Southern hospitality for which the Emerald unimaginably modest beginning, Navy Coast is famous.  Federal grew exponentially.  By 2012, Navy Federal, a perennial ranking Today, Navy Federal is the largest retail member of Fortune Magazine’s annual listing credit union in the United States. It holds of the nation’s best places to work, had earned $88.9 billion in assets and serves 7 1/2 the Sunshine State’s full faith and credit in the million members from its 300 branches form of economic development funding from located throughout the world. the Industry Recruitment, RetenThe campus north of tion & Expansion Fund Grant QUICK FACTS Pensacola is a jewel in the credit Program, which was adminis» Navy Federal Credit union’s crown and a success story Union added 750 tered by the University of West full-time positions in frequently studied by academics, Florida’s Office of Economic the greater Pensacola business people and taxpayers Development and Engagement. area, making 2017 looking to understand the role Grants from the Governor’s another recordQuick Action Closing Fund, loof state and local incentives in breaking year. cal tax abatements and Escamgrowing the economy. » NFCU holds $88.9 bia  County’s economic developPensacola’s military bases billion in assets and ment incentive program followed. made Escambia County an serves 7.5 million  The return on investment is obvious location for a small members globally.

The Phase 2 expansion at Navy Federal Credit Union calls for two new office buildings, an amenities building, two parking decks, additional equipment in the existing Central Energy Plant, plus connecting bridges, roads and walking paths.

“It’s hard to even put into words what it means to us long term to have an employer of that scale employing people,” he said. Navy Federal added 750 full-time positions in the greater Pensacola area last year, making   “2017 another record-breaking year for Navy Federal, and that’s due in part to the success we’ve had in Northwest Florida,” said  Bill  Pearson, the credit union’s public relations specialist in corporate communications. “We continue to recruit and hire the cream of the crop from across the Panhandle and that has allowed us to not only maintain but improve our member service.” Also in 2017, Navy Federal started the Talent Optimization Pipeline course, a yearlong pilot program that successfully trained eight entry-level employees to fill badly needed positions in IT services.

Heading into 2018, the credit union’s Pensacola plans call for a major expansion in the national call center, as well as beefing up regional capacity in lending, mortgage loan processing and information technology. The credit union’s rapid expansion is causing some growing pains in Pensacola, and beyond. “We’ve become much more regionally codependent because we need to get people to and from there and other places where there are high concentrations of employees,” said Ingram, a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee. “It has absolutely played into our strategy of how to fund and maintain the transportation infrastructure.”  The need for a trained workforce is presenting additional challenges, which the leadership of Navy Federal and three of

the region’s other large employers — Gulf Power, Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Health System — are addressing with the creation of Achieve Escambia. The initiative attempts to align efforts from “cradle to career” to assure the next generation is well educated and work ready. They understand the current program as it sits probably couldn’t crank out the workforce they need, so they took the bull by the horns and have become part of the solution … rather than just complain there’s not a large enough workforce,” Ingram said. “The complaint I’ve heard … since I was a kid is that companies won’t come here because we don’t have a large enough trained workforce. So, not only is it helping those four companies … but I think it will help everyone to have a real focus on workforce education training.”

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Gulf Power Co. and solar-energy developer Coronal Energy built a 366-acre, 50-megawatt solar farm at NAS Pensacola’s Saufley Field and two smaller ones at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach and Holley Field in Navarre. The 940 acres of solar panels generate up to 120 megawatts of domestic energy, enough to power 18,000 homes at once.

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he Coasties are coming. They’re the 152 officers and crew members aboard the U.S. Coast Guard cutters Decisive and Dauntless, due to make their home port at the Pensacola Naval Air Station by August, expanding the military’s already considerable presence in the local economy. That’s not all. Military-support organizations including the Florida Defense Alliance and a new group, the First Place Partnership, have been hard at work building bridges between local businesses and the military, which contributes an estimated $7.8 billion in total economic impact to the region. Apart from the impending arrival of those ships, recent milestones include development of a massive solar generation facility on military land plus a cybersecurity initiative.

Coast Guard Cutter Decisive, which will homeport in Pensacola later this year with Cutter Dauntless, patrols near a drilling rig that helped end the BP/Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Keith Hoskins, the former commander of NAS Pensacola who chairs the partnership, is so bullish on the area that he retired there in 2016. “I saw a lot of growth potential here,” Hoskins said. “There’s just a lot of great things going on in Northwest Florida. You’re starting to see organizations getting more synchronized, getting more collaborative, more aligned. I still feel like I’m a public servant. I want to give back to the communities that I live in.” Hosting the 210-foot cutters will require additional investment in improvements to docking facilities. The ships will conduct anti-drug, search-and-rescue and maritime law enforcement missions and will search for undocumented immigrants. They will join the 225-foot buoy tender Cypress, already homeported in Pensacola. Capt. Keith Hoskins, commanding officer of Naval Air Station Pensacola, delivers remarks at the National Naval Aviation Museum during Naval Air Station Pensacola’s 9/11 Commemoration Ceremony.

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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, of Miami, speaks with staff and students at the Center for Information Warfare Training at Corry Station, Pensacola NAS, which is working with private interests to create a “Pensacola Cyber Coast.”

“This is incredible news for Pensacola and for all Northwest Floridians,” U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said in announcing the move last June. “Not only is Northwest Florida gaining 152 new families, but the safety and security of the Emerald Coast and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is significantly enhanced.” Such decisions are made at high levels in the Department of Defense, said Debi Graham, an Air Force brat who serves as vice president for armed-services relations with the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. The business community’s role is to be welcoming and to help clear any obstacles including encroaching development that might compromise the military’s missions, she said. “Even if you don’t know specifically which areas are being relocated, it’s important to create a military-friendly environment,” Graham said. “So when those opportunities come along, the community is ready for them.”

Helping to do just that is the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance, which draws upon city, county and private funding to promote industrial expansion in Escambia County, including efforts to leverage the military presence into private investment. On its website, the alliance notes that more than 35,000 military veterans call the area home, and more join the private economy every day. Counting military, civilian and defense industry workers, the sector contributes more than 80,000 jobs. “These professionals are educated, disciplined, technically proficient self-starters, the type of employees that all leaders want in their companies,” the alliance says. NAS Pensacola is renowned as the “Cradle of Naval Aviation” and still maintains programs training pilots and aviation systems specialists who also participate in air sorties. The Air Force trains many of its such specialists in the area, too. Beyond that, “basically, all of the Navy’s

aviation maintenance training goes on here,” Graham said. “That’s the largest part of this. Those are weapons folks. Those are mechanics, firefighters, flight control, engine repair — anything that would tie into aviation on a carrier or in a flight squadron is done here. We have a massive resource, not only of the students coming through but also the instructors.”


Then there’s the Center for Information Warfare Training at Corry Station, the “cradle of cryptology,” which is training a new generation of cyberwarriors for the Navy and other armed services. The economic implications are clear. “Those are highly desirable skill sets. If you’re looking to expand into aviation manufacturing or repair, those are the folks you want to hang on to,” Graham said. “A senior enlisted person who leaves after 25 years in the military, they may only be only 45 years old. Many of them are going

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to start a second career. They have very advanced skill sets. The University of West Florida is expanding some of their programs in those areas, and Pensacola State College too. Those are areas where we definitely see potential.” FloridaWest is among the organizations attempting to spin off the Navy’s cybersecurity infrastructure to create a “Pensacola Cyber Coast,” with a strategic plan launched in October to “become a regional and national leader in cybersecurity.” Roughly 500 local companies engage in cybersecurity, information technology, aerospace and defense, and the Department of Homeland Security also maintains a presence. UWF hopes to develop a $27.5 million technical campus on 9 acres of cleared land to house training facilities including a Cybersecurity Innovation Center. The United States faces a deficit of at least 1 million cybersecurity experts, according to Brigadier General Gregory Touhill, the nation’s first chief information security officer. “The region’s industry is already heavily invested in information technology and digital operational technology,” Touhill wrote for a strategic plan report. “I am confident that with its strong, smart and hardworking people, bountiful resources, and drive for excellence that the Cyber Coast is well on its way to vaulting to national prominence.” The Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency both support UWF’s efforts. In addition, Graham, at the Chamber of Commerce, has been encouraging local public safety agencies to work when possible with the military in joint training to respond to emergencies. And Gulf Power Co., where Hoskins is a vice president, collaborated with solar energy provider Coronal Energy to construct three solar farms on 940 acres owned by the Department of Defense, including the NAS’s Saufley Field. Together, the facilities can generate enough power to light 18,000 homes while promoting renewable energy and grid resilience. The juice began flowing in August. “It’s one of the largest solar projects east of the Mississippi,” Hoskins said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of rich history in West Florida with the community and the military,” he said. “We’re looking for some opportunities for how we can enhance that and build those partnerships.”


Cryptologic Technician 1st Class Brandon Janice gives instructions during a CyberThon event to introduce high school and college students to the field of cyberdefense.

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REINVENTING THE PORT OF PENSACOLA DEPRESSED OIL MARKET FUELS NEW DIRECTION — TOWARD SCIENCE, RESEARCH by KARI C. BARLOW In recent years, the majority of the port’s vessel dockage days were from offshore oil and gas rigs as well as well and pipeline construction vessels heading in for project mobilizations, project demobilizations and top-side repair and maintenance work, Miller said. “When the oil market collapsed, new exploration of offshore subsea oilfields halted and production slowed,” she said. “This meant there was no work for those vessels that had been coming into port to load up for jobs or unload left-over materials from completed jobs. Further, with no jobs in sight, the vessel owners didn’t want to spend available capital on maintenance and repair work that could be deferred until market conditions improve. With those vessels no longer coming into port, total vessel dockage days fell dramatically.”


To combat the downward trend, Miller and her staff are heavily focused on generating new revenue streams. “We are out there marketing and doing what we can to attract new customers,” she said. “It’s a little bit of everything. There are major industry conferences we go to on the cargo side and the offshore side. … We make sure we stay in constant contact with all our local manufacturers, and we stay in contact with all the ships’ agents, all the way from New Orleans to Panama City. … This port frequently ships lumber, so by experience, I

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know who most of the lumber brokers are in the Southeast.” Still, the persistent losses have begun to change the way Pensacola officials view the port. When viewed in its current state, the operation’s appeal is less apparent. When viewed simply as prime real estate — roughly 50 acres of restricted land and 30 acres unrestricted — its potential seems limitless. In the past year, the port’s dwindling revenues have prompted city officials to question not only its value and relevance but also the possibility of using the waterfront property in new ways. Assistant City Administrator Keith Wilkins said the goal must be transitioning the port into the future.

“This past fiscal year was the worst I’ve ever seen in my 25-plus-year career.” — PORT DIRECTOR AMY MILLER “The port has been profitable for the past 13 or 14 years,” he said. “Petroleum being down is kind of out of our control, but what we can do to make it more profitable?” Miller said the solution lies in a blend of the old and the new. “I don’t believe that we abandon cargo,” she said. “We have local and regional shippers who rely on this port, and I think it’s important for the economy of our region.”



lummeting oil prices continue to take a toll on operations tied to global petroleum, and the Port of Pensacola is not spared, necessitating new thinking. “This past fiscal year was the worst I’ve ever seen in my 25-plus-year career,” said Port Director Amy Miller. “The negative effects of the depressed oil market on Port of Pensacola were, in my mind, second only to negative impacts of the 1998 crash of the Russian ruble on the Port of Gulfport’s export poultry business.” In the past year, city officials have seen the port’s revenues fall significantly — along with hopes of expanding into the offshore oil and gas sector. Though annual revenue fluctuates, depending on specific cargo volumes moved by customers and any grants awarded to the port, it generally ranges from $1.5 million to $2.5 million. For 2017, total revenues were $1.6 million with $1.24 million generated from port operations and $360,000 in grant receipts. That’s down from 2016 when annual revenue totaled $2.6 million with $1.85 million generated from port operations and $750,000 in grant receipts. “For the first time in a long time, we had to take money out of reserves,” Miller said. The port generates revenue from three sources — vessel and dockage fees, wharf fees charged on cargo moving through the facility and facility-use fees, which includes rent on warehouses — and the flat oil market is affecting each one.

Pensacola Port Director Amy Miller forecasts a hybrid future for the port: continued but reduced cargo operations and redevelopment of the port’s land, parking lots and warehouse space for marine-related science and research.

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The port’s traditional roles of moving cargo and servicing vessels that explore for oil in the Gulf of Mexico are diminishing, while the port’s value as real estate is drawing attention.

Along with Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, Miller also supports the emerging “hybrid port” concept. “Over the coming years, I believe you will see the port undergo a transformation that will allow continued international shipping and international trade activity at the commercial docks and warehouses but which will transition the remainder of the port’s assets — many of which are currently underutilized — to new, more diversified uses,” she said. To that end, the city is currently looking at the potential redevelopment of the port’s available land, parking lots and one 43,000-square-foot warehouse being considered for a new marine research center headed by the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

One of the first tangible examples of Pensacola embracing the hybrid port concept is the city’s November application to Triumph Gulf Coast for $15 million in BP oil-spill money to house the Northwest Center for Dynamic Ocean Technologies at Port of Pensacola Warehouse 4. The CDOT’s scope of work is broad, ranging from the ocean technologies needed to test the complexity of ecosystems to actual ocean research innovations in aquaculture and the control of invasive species. Half of the $15 million would be used to rehab the port warehouse with a new roof and other repairs and build a berth for docking research vessels. The remainder would fund the program’s research functions. Another $8 million from several of the CDOT’s 13 partners— City of Pensacola, Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, University of West Florida, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Pensacola and Perdido Bays Estuary Program, Escambia County Board of County Commissioners, Cobalt Intelligence LLC, Pensacola Bay Oyster Company, Pensacola State College, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Naval Experimental

Dive Unit, Air Force Research Laboratory and Visit Pensacola—brings the project’s total price tag to $23 million. “The repurposing of the warehouse facility with cutting-edge science and research to innovate and develop ocean technologies benefits the city, county and Northwest Florida through high-wage job creation, career pathways and internships, technology transfer, private sector investments and small company spinoffs,” said Julie Sheppard, general counsel for the IHMC. Sheppard said the CDOT’s initial job creation includes 25 immediate jobs with salaries ranging from $60,000 to $150,000. Work on the project is ongoing, and the center is expected to be up and running 9 to 12 months after receiving funding approval, she added.

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Wilkins agreed, calling the CDOT, which would sit on the extreme northwest corner of the port, “a perfect fit.” “Any kind of research and development direction is a good direction for us to go,” he said. “It’s clean industry, high-paying jobs, and it’s a perfect re-use right there on the water.” Miller agreed, adding that she remains hopeful cargo activity will rebound but, meanwhile, she is excited to see new ventures at the port. “I’m enthusiastic that pursuing the kind of diversified, hybrid port development that the mayor supports … a robust mix of business types and activities that, ultimately, will improve the port’s financial position and sustainability,” she said.



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From Kiplinger's Personal Finance, May © 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. All rights reserved. Used by permission and protected by the Copyright Laws of the United States. The printing, copying, redistribution, or retransmission of this Content without express written permission is prohibited.

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or nearly 40 years after a fire destroyed the Frisco Docks, their location off Main Street on the edge of Pensacola Bay remained dormant. Oh, how that has changed. And the remarkable transition into the 32-acre Vince Whibbs Sr. Community Maritime Park sparked a rebirth of downtown Pensacola that is still in progress. The park contains the Hunter Amphitheater, Exhibition Grounds, Rotary Centennial Playground and Blue Wahoos Stadium. Built from 2009 to 2012 at a cost of $53 million, Maritime Park was honored in 2016 with an Urban Land Institute North Florida “Open Space” award. “Certainly, I can say the impact of the entire park and the stadium has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Pensacola City Administrator Eric Olson. “If you think of Pensacola as a brand and how are we perceived by people who are outside of our community,” Olson added, “now people think of Pensacola as a quality place: ‘Hey it’s got something to offer to people of all ages.’” In fiscal year 2017, 34 events were hosted at Hunter Amphitheater, Exhibition Grounds and Rotary Centennial Playground, according to Tonya Vaden, Pensacola city marketing director. Those included concerts, outdoor movies and running and fitness events. CPA Mandy Bills, the city’s business process review manager, said general fund revenues from Maritime Park for fiscal year 2017 totaled $810,735, with capital maintenance and repair fund revenues totaling $169,417. It adds up to $980,152,

“We have big amenities of cities that are much larger. The Wahoos play a very, very prominent role in that, and they are situated to have a very dominant place in the downtown culture.” — CURT MORSE, PENSACOLA DOWNTOWN IMPROVEMENT BOARD with the Blue Wahoos accounting for $765,637 of that. Growth in taxable property value attributed to the park is greater still. “The growth in the taxable value of property within the CRA Urban Core area since the Maritime Park was opened in 2012 is approximately 20 percent,” Bills stated. “While the Maritime Park was not the only factor that contributed to this increase, it was one of the catalysts that helped fuel the growth.” Bills added that $45.64 million of Redevelopment Revenue Bonds that were issued by the City of Pensacola to finance the construction of Maritime Park will be paid off in April 2040. Worth noting is that Randall K. and Martha A. Hunter donated $600,000 toward construction of the amphitheater. Which brings us to the major tenant of Community Maritime Park – the Pensacola Blue Wahoos minor league baseball team. The ballpark was financed as part of the Community Maritime Park project, for which the City of Pensacola issued the $45.64 million in bonds in December 2009. Additionally, a federal New Market Tax

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Credit allocation that was awarded was sold for $12 million. Overall, owners Quint and Rishy Studer invested $17.5 million in bringing minor league baseball to Pensacola. That included $3 million toward building the $18 million ballpark. “What the Wahoos did is they created a neighborhood,” Studer said. “There are so many relationships that are connected, so many people see each other at the ballpark, and I think the ballpark has become a special neighborhood for the community, and that’s what we wanted it to be.” With a seating capacity of 5,038, Blue Wahoos Stadium is the smallest in the 10-team Class AA Southern League. The population of the Pensacola area (including Escambia and Santa Rosa counties) is the third-smallest market in the league. All of which makes yearly attendance figures of more than 300,000 something impressive. The Wahoos led the Southern League in their 2012 debut, averaging 4,826 fans per game. From 2013 to 2016, Pensacola was second overall in attendance each season. In 2017 the Wahoos were fourth, averaging 4,296 per game. Such numbers evidently impressed Bubba Watson, a PGA tour star and two-time Masters champion who grew up next door in Santa Rosa County. Recently he moved to Pensacola and purchased a 10% share of the Wahoos. The stadium’s bar and restaurant was renamed Bubba’s Sand Trap. Watson told CNN: “Ever since I went to my first Blue Wahoos game, I have been a big fan. I love the atmosphere. It’s such a great place to go with friends and family.” But the 70 baseball games during the



Maritime Park on Pensacola Bay includes Blue Wahoos Stadium, Hunter Amphitheater, Exhibition Grounds and Rotary Centennial Playground. The park attracts locals and visitors downtown, where they also are choosing to dine, shop and visit museums, galleries and historic sites.

summer represent less than half the events that are held year-round at the stadium. “We host roughly 150 events a year,” said Jonathan Griffith, executive vice president for the Wahoos. “Our goal is to always have people down there and make it exactly what it was supposed to be, a multi-use stadium. It can be anything and everything.” That includes football games played by the University of West Florida, Field of Screams Haunted House, Soul Bowl, Flag Football, Autism Pensacola Event and Green Egg Fest. The Wahoos also hosted an inaugural Kazoo’s New Year’s Celebration featuring the popular Pelican Drop. “I think the entire idea of the ballpark was to get people downtown,” Griffith said. “We have only 260 parking spots for a 5,000seat stadium, and the reason for that was we wanted people to park downtown, eat downtown and drink downtown.” In May 2017, Visit Pensacola, the area’s tourism marketers, released its first “Value of Visitors” Escambia County report, conducted by Majority Opinion Research. That report stated that in 2016, more than

2 million visitors spent nearly $800 million dollars and paid nearly $22 million in taxes to the county. “Over the past three to five years we’ve seen some incredible growth,” said Nicole Stacey, director of marketing and development for Visit Pensacola. “With the stadium and the Maritime Park, it just helps drive that foot traffic,” Stacey said. “When you’re downtown for a game, before or after, you can check out our restaurants, historic museums and all kinds of things that are very walkable.” Curt Morse, executive director of the Pensacola Downtown Improvement Board, offered a similar assessment. “This little town that had great curb appeal that drew in a few visitors is now this more polished city that offers more and better amenities,” Morse said. “People are actually coming here with intention, and not just because their favorite place in Destin was booked or it’s too crowded on the beaches in South Walton County.” Visiting Pensacola has become an “entire experience,” according to Morse.

“You can come spend a few days at the beach, then come into town and catch a great game and have an exceptional culinary experience,” he said, “and if you’re into the nightlife, there’s plenty of that here too. So it’s really the fulfillment of our community growing into this more refined place.” And the impact of Community Maritime Park and the Wahoos? “Oh, huge — huge,” Morse replied without hesitation. “Here we have a city of just under 55,000 people and the MSA (metropolitan population) in the neighborhood of 240,000. But we have big amenities of cities that are much larger. The Wahoos play a very, very prominent role in that, and they are situated to have a very dominant place in the downtown culture.” Rusty Branch, executive director of the Escambia County Destination Marketing Organization, grew up several counties away in Marianna and pitched at the University of West Florida. “When you’re talking about the quality of a place, it’s all the amenities,” Branch said, “and one of the big amenities added in the past five years is the Wahoos.”

2018 E S C A M B I A C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L / 31



DA RY L H A L L & J O H N OAT E S APRIL 19, 2018 – 5:30 PM


Hosted by the TMH Foundation, this event supports Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s mission of transforming care, advancing health and improving lives. Enjoy an evening of good company, dinner and entertainment by the No. 1 best selling duo in music history, Daryl Hall & John Oates. Golden Gala XXXV benefits the Animal Therapy Program at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. Purchase your table at TMH.ORG/GoldenGala. 32 / 2018 E S C A M B I A C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

Profile for Rowland Publishing, Inc.

2018 Escambia County Business Journal  

2018 Escambia County Business Journal