James Hizer recently took over as CEO of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce. [Photo: Katie King/Pensacola News Journal]
James Hizer recently took over as CEO of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce, the county's lead economic development agency. Previously, as CEO for six years for the Bowling Green (Ky.) Area Chamber of Commerce, he led a regional effort that created more than 4,000 jobs. His plans and thoughts on Pensacola:
» Strategy: "We will be exploring funding alternatives and will implement a revised strategic plan for the Pensacola metro area — the last strategy was completed five years ago and clearly needs to be updated. I'm also looking forward to building a more metropolitan economic development effort, working with Santa Rosa County's Team Santa Rosa."
» Opportunities: "We need to fine-tune our plans and do some work in creating inventory — our Escambia County inventory of sites and buildings is a little light. We need to work with existing businesses to do everything we can to help them expand; 80%-plus of our new jobs going forward will be related to those existing industries."
» Clusters: "We have a couple of significant industry clusters already, aerospace and renewable energy, that are good fits for Pensacola and will continue to be important targets. Back-office operations are another important cluster."
» Lifestyle: "More than ever, success in attracting business and increasing job growth is all about having an attractive place to live because those who have skills can live anywhere. The quality of life in the Pensacola metro area is extremely high. So I'm an optimist."
» Changes: "I think the greatest change the business community and elected leadership will see is in aggressiveness. At the moment, the worldwide site-selection community knows very little about the Pensacola Bay area. We need to change that."