Last Thursday, I had the honor of taking part on a panel at Pensacola Young Professionals Quality of Life Survey Event, Perception vs. Reality. I was reminded of how far Greater Pensacola and Escambia County have come in the last few years.
Public perception is that our economy has improved. According to the Quality of Life Survey, in the past 5 years that FloridaWest has been in existence, the perception that Escambia County is a great place for entrepreneurs and businesses had increased from 26% in 2014 to 50% last year.
Our entrepreneurial community is thriving. We have seen great success with our entrepreneurs at Co:Lab – just last week IRIS, one of our Co:Lab graduates, was selected by Microsoft to participate in a new grant program to help expand the company’s work using retina imaging to detect disease.
With Patrick Rooney taking over as Director of Co:Lab, we are joining forces with Studer Community Institute, The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, The Gulf Coast Minority Chamber of Commerce, Gulf Power, Pensacola State College and The University of West Florida Center for Entrepreneurship to provide the Venture Mentoring Service for our entrepreneurs. It is based on the successful model used by the renowned VMS program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Unemployment in Escambia County is at 2.8%. Our economy is strong. But now is not the time to slow down. We will continue to work hard to create a diverse economy that can weather downturns or natural disasters.
Jeff Dyer, Director of Workforce Innovation, is hard at work with our partners at Achieve Escambia, Careersource Escarosa and the Community Action Program Committee on assessments for the National Inclusive Development Network. An initiative of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the Inclusive Development Network will help us to identify and implement strategies that reduce equity gaps in local workforce development. Through this innovative network, we can assure that our prosperity will include all of our citizens.
I look forward to working with you to make our economy even stronger in 2020. Thank you for your support.
Scott Luth, FloridaWest CEO