» Economic improvement projects that have been years in the making came to fruition in Pensacola last year — a $35-million National Flight Academy providing aviation-oriented STEM classes and a $7.7-million reconstruction of the downtown library. The downtown Community Maritime Park and baseball venue was also completed.
» Leading the recovery: Record tourism (up 10% over the same period a year ago), hospital expansions, growing IT businesses and a lineup of new-business prospects resembling pre-recession levels. Still, unemployment is hovering around 8%, and urban poverty levels are high. “I would venture a third of the employable people in the city are either unemployed or underemployed and in desperate need of entry-level jobs,” says business consultant Jerry Maygarden, a former mayor, state representative and hospital executive. As president of West Florida Historic Preservation, he's promoting development of heritage tourism to provide jobs and foster economic growth. The UWF-affiliated organization owns 8½ acres of historic assets in downtown Pensacola, one of Florida's earliest exploration sites.
Businesses to Watch
» Overgroup: A software company that works with regional telephone companies to enable customers to activate cell phones and pay bills online, has made the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies. Employment is expected to increase from 25 in January to 35 to 40 by year-end.
» Coastal Machinery: The company's shipments of used construction equipment from the Panhandle to Caribbean nations, including Trinidad and Tobago, and to South America are slowly increasing, accounting for 30% of sales; overall sales were up 10% to 12% last year. Similar growth is expected this year, says President Joe Meeks.
» Landrum Professional Employer Services: The employee outsourcing company, which has a staff of 147, expanded twice last year, teaming with a European company to open Landrum Europe in Almelo, the Netherlands, and acquiring two professional employer organizations in the Carolinas. The latter additions increased worksite employees on payroll to 11,000.
People to Watch
» Sandy Sansing: Sansing, who owns eight auto dealerships, is the 2013 chairman of the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. His primary goals include creating 3,000 jobs by 2015, implementing a two-county strategic marketing plan and increasing participation of the chamber's 1,200 members.
» Cindi Bonner: The founder of Fitness Onboard, which provides stand-up paddleboards as exercise platforms, patented her own board, the Fitness Onboard SUP by Dragonfly, and has opened three locations, including a downtown retail shop.
» Jim Barnett, interim CEO of the University of UWF Business Enterprises and associate vice president for facilities at the University of West Florida, is overseeing development of an 18-acre campus center that will have a hotel, conference center, student housing and restaurant/retail space. Construction is projected to start in June with completion scheduled for August 2014.
|Escambia Population: 302,758|
|Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.48%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $38,372|
|MSA||Dec. 2012||Dec. 2011||% Change||Jobless Rate|
|Panama City/Lynn Haven/Panama City Beach||80,172||80,490||-0.4%||8.5%|
|Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation|
|Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales|
|MSA||2013 Sales||1-Year Change||2013 Price||1-Year Change|
|Fort Walton Beach||2,698||-3.2%||$179,900||+1.1%|
|Source: Florida Realtors|