Business Florida 2021 - The Regions
Bay • Calhoun • Escambia • Franklin • Gadsen • Gulf • Holmes • Jackson • Jefferson • Leon • Liberty • Okaloosa • Santa Rosa • Wakulla • Walton • Washington
For the third year in a row, personal finance website WalletHub.com has named Tallahassee among the top 20 most educated cities in the U.S. based on quality of education and educational attainment. Nearly half (48%) of Tallahassee residents over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared with 32% nationwide.
Two of Florida’s 12 public universities are located in Tallahassee: Florida A&M University, ranked seventh among historically Black colleges and universities by U.S. News & World Report and first in Florida for elementary education programs; and Florida State University, the nation’s 18th-ranked public university and a research heavyweight at No. 22 among U.S. public universities for patents granted in 2019 (43). New to the FSU campus: the Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science Building, housing the university’s environmental science, geology, meteorology and oceanography programs, including 31 research and teaching labs, a broadcast studio for meteorology students and a 280-seat auditorium. At seven stories, it’s the tallest point on the FSU campus.
This region’s third public university — University of West Florida in Pensacola — earns accolades on U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 list of “Regional Universities South” in two categories: “Top Public Schools” (No. 15) and “Best Colleges for Veterans” (No. 19). UWF is widely known as a center for its cybersecurity and entrepreneurship programs, including the recently opened Commons Entrepreneurship Incubator aimed at providing networking opportunities for students with innovative business ideas.
Also in this region: Gulf Coast State College, home to the Unmanned Safety Institute, the first training safety and education center of its kind in the U.S. for drones; Tallahassee Community College, the only state college in the nation to receive a $1-million investment from the National Science Foundation to provide full scholarships for students seeking associate degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); and Northwest Florida State College, nationally recognized for its registered apprenticeship programs in carpentry, plumbing, machining and hospitality.
Life & Leisure
Tourism is big business in Northwest Florida and it’s easy to see why. Who can resist all those miles of sugar white sand and emerald green water? Hurricane Michael in October 2018 took a sizable bite out of tourism revenues across the Panhandle temporarily, but this region came roaring back in 2019, posting double-digit gains in visitor spending across the three coastal counties of Walton, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa. Even Bay County — the most heavily impacted by Michael — began showing recovery in the tourism sector in late summer 2019, with losses partially offset by bed and tax revenue from displaced residents and out-of-town contractors. Not surprisingly, tourism in Florida’s Northwest is significantly down in 2020 due to closures related to COVID-19, the full effects of which have yet to be fully assessed.
Northwest Florida is a great place to visit; it’s an even better place to live. Flip-flops, shorts and shades are universally accepted here, and the only traffic jam you’re liable to encounter is on a causeway headed for a beach. And speaking of Panhandle beaches, Grayton Beach State Park is No.1 on the 2020 list of America’s 10 best beaches compiled by Florida International University’s Stephen “Dr. Beach” Leatherman. Away from the coast, there are dozens of small towns to explore, many of which boast tongue-twisting names like Miccosukee, Wacissa and Sopchoppy. Florida’s capital city — Tallahassee — is here too, along with Pensacola, named to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 top 25 list of most desirable places to live in the U.S., and DeFuniak Springs, dubbed “Best Small Town in Florida” by MSN.com’s Insider Online in 2019. There’s plenty of natural beauty here too — winding rivers, pine forests, crystal clear springs — plus lighthouses, the world’s smallest police station and museums devoted to everything from naval aviation to Florida history and fine arts.
In an effort to preserve this state’s fragile ecosystem, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is teaming up with Florida’s hotel and hospitality industry to encourage lodging facilities to voluntarily commit to reducing waste, conserving water, using less energy and recycling. To date, 15 Northwest Florida lodging facilities have signed on to The Florida Green Lodging Program. In 2018, participating properties decreased landfill waste by more than 1.5 million pounds statewide. Some properties have even seen financial savings and increased occupancy rates as a result of participating in the program.