COVID-19 has caused a global shift; How does Pensacola position itself for the new dynamic?
Though the COVID-19 Pandemic has presented challenges for business worldwide, this is an unprecedented opportunity for us here in the Greater Pensacola area.
Though the pandemic has been difficult for businesses, in any crisis there are opportunities to emerge even better and stronger. Millions of Americans have found that they can do their jobs from anywhere and many companies have seen that it may not matter so much where their talent is. In the weeks and months ahead, FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance will be politely suggesting to technology and cybersecurity professionals that “anywhere” should be right here in the Pensacola area.
Freed from their desks and cubicles and long commutes, talented employees are rightly considering whether it still makes sense to stay in cities that lured them simply because “that’s where the jobs are.” Many are looking for just the kind of quality of life that our region provides – the perfect blend of history, natural beauty, and a warm climate. A place with big-city convenience and family-friendly charm.
At first glance, this focus on attracting people who already have jobs may seem at odds with the traditional approach to economic development – attracting companies that bring jobs. In truth, however, one complements the other. Organizations with high-demand, high-wage specialties like cybersecurity thrive where they can find the best talent in the highest numbers.
The CyberCoast offers some important advantages in that regard already.
President Martha Saunders and Dr. Eman El-Sheikh have done an outstanding job of turning the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity into a national center of excellence, one that is now helping other institutions achieve that designation. UWF, along with Pensacola State College, is producing trained cybersecurity workers who are finding local opportunities with the Department of Homeland Security, the National Security Agency, and the Navy’s cybersecurity operations. Others are going to private sector companies like Zix/AppRiver.
In order to keep these agencies and companies here, help them grow, and attract others like them, we need to make sure our well of talent is even deeper. That’s why FloridaWest will be working with local partners to develop and launch our ‘Remote from Here’ campaign that will highlight all the great reasons why ‘work from home’ should mean ‘work from here.’
The region’s experience as a major tourist destination proves that people from all over will choose to spend their limited vacation time here. The number of military retirees in the area is evidence that many who do spend time here will ultimately decide to make it their permanent home. That’s why it just makes sense to reach out now to convince information and technology workers to make a quality-of-life move sooner rather than later.
Our success in recruiting these individuals will benefit the region immediately. The technology sector generally pays higher-than-average salaries, which means more money flowing into our local economy and more local tax revenue to support our schools, improve our infrastructure, and make other investments in the future.
An influx of skilled tech-sector workers will bring new ideas and more potential entrepreneurs. As we’ve seen in many other areas, this is a great formula for attracting capital and launching new, homegrown businesses that create even more jobs.
There’s also the benefit of connection. There’s no stronger attraction than among friends and family members. As talented people make their way to the Pensacola area, people who know and love them will inevitably follow. All of this means that the companies they work for may decide their remote workers have the right idea and relocate all or some of their operations here.
The most exciting part of this strategy is that it’s one all of us can be a part of. FloridaWest will be putting together campaign materials and sharing them as widely as we can. We’ll be sharing the message about all the great things the CyberCoast has to offer.
You can help us by reaching out to the remote tech and cyber professionals you know who are working remotely in places outside Northwest Florida. Let them know why you enjoy living and working here, and why they should consider it as well. We would also like to know your story. We encourage cyber professionals to contact us and let us know about your experiences working from the CyberCoast.
Do you work remotely in Cyber? Drop us a line at [email protected]