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New FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance CEO Announced

by FloridaWest News




The FloridaWest Board of Directors is pleased to announce they have selected a new CEO to head the economic development agency. Seasoned economic development leader Brian Hilson is coming from Alabama where he has more than 40 years of experience leading programs that address all phases of community-based economic growth. His leadership in Alabama helped create more than 100,000 new jobs and more than $3 billion in investment.

Hilson served as President & CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntsville/Madison County, President & CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance, and Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Alabama, in addition to other roles.

FloridaWest Board Chair Rick Byars said Hilson’s deep experience and successes in economic development initiatives made him a unanimous board choice for the position.

“Brian comes with significant wins in Alabama, a close competitor for business recruitment,” said Byars. “His leadership helped lure Toyota and three Mercedes facilities, which resulted in $2.3 billion in investment and 2,700 jobs. These are just two highlights of dozens of economic development successes under his leadership. We’re excited to get Brian on board and engaged in the community.”

Hilson replaces former CEO Scott Luth, who left in May and is now Vice President of Economic Development & Capital Programs at Space Florida.

Other big wins for Hilson include attracting 4,700 jobs in a U.S Army Base Realignment & Closure project, the Hudson-Alpha Institute for Biotechnology with 1,000 jobs and $120 million in investment, a Raytheon project that brought 300 jobs and a $75 million investment and a new Amazon facility that resulted in 1,500 jobs and $180 million in investment. 

Hilson said when he was first contacted about the position, he was already aware of Pensacola’s strong reputation in economic development, and he learned quickly about the local leadership’s commitment to continuing economic growth. 

“Pensacola and Escambia County have an impressive track record in recruiting and developing businesses,” said Hilson. “The community has much to offer growing businesses as well as people who want to live and work here. We have excellent leadership already in place, not only at the EDA but throughout the community and Gulf Coast region, and my hope is that we will work closely together to bring more economic prosperity to the region resulting in better opportunities and an improved quality of life for all citizens.”

Hilson will begin in his new position on August 1, 2023.