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Reality check for Pensacola's Downtown Technology Park

The Pensacola area needs 500 to 600 acres of shovel-ready industrial parks within the next four years and a $15-million to $25-million Targeted Employment Education Endowment fund to improve workforce skills, especially for higher-wage jobs.

Those recommendations are part of a new strategic plan for Escambia and Santa Rosa counties commissioned by the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce from consultants Chabin Concepts and Ticknor & Associates.
There’s been a tendency, says chamber President and CEO Jim Hizer, for marketing to get ahead of what the area can actually deliver. “We sent someone from our economic development department to Europe three times last year to chase Airbus supplier ops,’’ but the county doesn’t have the infrastructure to support the kind of firms it’s trying to attract, he says.

Airbus-related manufacturing in nearby Mobile, Ala., had been touted as a way to attract supplier firms, but those could be years away, the report says.

“We’ll be refocusing initiatives almost immediately,” Hizer says.

In assessing the area’s resources, the report painted a less-than-glowing picture of available industrial sites. Pensacola’s nine-acre Downtown Technology Park has no tenants, but at least is likely “certifiable,” meaning it’s close to being ready for tenants to build. Otherwise, Escambia County has few industrial sites ready for development. Santa Rosa County, meanwhile, is promoting three industrial parks, but just one 90-acre park is close to being certifiable.

“We have a tendency to look around and say everything here is hunky-dory, that we’ve got all the assets and just need marketing,” Hizer says.