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Planning the Future of Pensacola: Pensacola 2030 Blueprint Targets Community-Wide Goals

After conducting two years of intensive research in cities throughout the state of Florida, the Florida Chamber announced its Florida 2030 plan which outlines goals and key factors to support the growing industries and rising population across the state. The localized blueprint, Pensacola 2030, spearheaded by The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, uses a holistic strategy to support economic development and community wellbeing by identifying key factors that drive our economy and community growth. According to the Pensacola 2030 Blueprint, an estimated 24,000+ new residents will call Pensacola home and 15,000+ new jobs will be needed to support the growth. The plan addresses steps to improve education gaps, workforce shortages, community health, affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and access to broadband internet as well as measurable goals such as adding 10+ new minority-owned businesses per year and increasing the per capita income to the national average of $56,200. Northwest Florida’s Business Climate Magazine spoke with Pensacola Chamber Foundation Executive Director Sara Lefevers about the five pillars of the Pensacola 2030 Plan and what this framework means for the future of Pensacola.


Can you tell me a little about what the Chamber Foundation does and the role it plays within the Greater Pensacola Chamber?

The Pensacola Chamber Foundation is a 501c3 organization that serves as a support to the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and the Pensacola business community at large. The mission of the Pensacola Chamber Foundation is to support economic prosperity and impact economic wellbeing by strengthening and sustaining the future of our community.


What exactly is the Pensacola 2030 Blueprint?

The Pensacola 2030 Blueprint is an aggressive, holistic strategic plan that aligns economic and community development to equip Pensacola to become one of the most attractive and competitive business climates in the state and across the world. The Florida Chamber of Commerce spent two years researching in all 67 counties to create the framework for the Florida 2030 plan.


What does this localized plan mean for the future of Pensacola, and why is it so vital?

Building on the framework set by The Florida Chamber, The Pensacola Chamber Foundation and the Pensacola business community have convened to identify key trends and factors that drive our local economies. As we prepare for our projected regional growth in the next eight years, Pensacola 2030 is our opportunity to come together to strengthen and sustain our community, businesses and future. The localized plan is essential to our community. It is the first time we have had a holistic and truly inclusive approach to growing our community.


Can you tell me about the five focus areas for Pensacola and how this framework was established?

We surveyed our members mid-2020 and asked what areas the Chamber should advocate for and what areas need advocacy. From there we determined the topics of our newly established issue, driven subcommittees. These subcommittees were comprised of experts in our community and service providers that could contribute the expertise in these areas that the chamber could not provide on our own. We obtained verified data on where our community currently ranks in these areas and were able to formulate percentages on where we need to be or could be by 2030. From there we outlined our specific Pensacola 2030 goals. Under the Economic Growth & Sustainability pillar, the plan addresses increasing minority-owned businesses, adding 15,000+ jobs and increasing the per capita income in Escambia County to $56,200.


How do these issues affect current workforce shortages and the local economy?

We believe by growing our businesses and income, creating a more diverse workforce, evening the playing fields, strengthening our vulnerable communities and making our economy more attractive, we can become one of the most competitive business climates in Florida, thus growing our local economy and creating a place where people can and want to work. On that same note, minority business owners face unique challenges like limited access to capital.


Will there be any collaboration with the Gulf Coast Minority Chamber of Commerce or local organizations to address opportunities for minority business owners?

Absolutely, that is the only way we can successfully achieve these goals. The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce and the Gulf Coast Minority Chamber have entered a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and will be collaborating more as we move forward. As the Chamber we are here to provide resources and support to our partners at the Gulf Coast Minority Chamber and throughout the business community. The Chamber cannot take on the role to accomplish these goals alone, nor do we have the capacity to do so. However, we can convene, build capacity and make connections for those doing the work and then analyze the results and aggregate the data and show a more realistic view of where we rank in these areas.


Of the projected jobs needed to support the 24,000+ new residents in Escambia County by 2030, which industries are projected to have the greatest need, and are there plans for workforce training programs to fill these roles?

According to a study by the Hass Center, the top growing industries in our county are management, architecture and engineering, computer and mathematical, life sciences, and Legal. Furthermore, the data shows us, of those employed, currently only 63.72 percent have what we call employable skills. There are many skills training programs in the state and in our area. What we need is a collaboration of those providers, higher education institutions and the local business community to educate the workforce on how to obtain those skill certifications and make those opportunities accessible to all. We have developed wonderful partnerships with veteran organizations and others including CareerSource Escarosa to get information and opportunity awareness out to our community. We are excited to have CareerSource Escarosa CEO Marcus McBride chairing our workforce subcommittee and partnering with the Chamber to further develop this focus area as we strive to reach these goals by 2030.


How does addressing issues of youth obesity, access to mental healthcare and county health rankings impact the quality of life in Escambia County?

Community Health is the intersection of healthcare, economics and social interaction. Strong community health requires residents to look beyond themselves and take collective responsibility. The breakdown of how health outcomes in our community are determined is:

  • Healthcare = 10%

  • Genetics = 30%

  • Behavior = 40%

  • Social/Economic Factors = 20%

One of the biggest lessons we have learned in the last couple years, is that community health and social determinants of health highly affect the workforce and people’s ability to perform at their highest optimal impact. By addressing these issues, we are strengthening the workforce and creating a more equitable community.


Under the Economic Wellbeing pillar, the plan addresses some complex issues like childhood poverty, food insecurity, infrastructure and affordable housing. Can you explain some of the tactics outlined in the plan to address these issues?

Our Economic Wellbeing goals are very aggressive. I can’t tell you the exact plan to tackle all of these areas; however, I can tell you where we plan to start. We are partnering with the Florida Chamber’s Prosperity Project and using resources that they have provided such as the Florida Gap Map to identify the areas with the greatest needs and to study what other successful communities have implemented such as sustainable solutions to childhood poverty and affordable housing that yielded proven results. One step we have identified and will be pursuing regarding access to nutritional food and fighting food insecurity, is to find ways to incentivize businesses grocers to establish their business in identified food deserts or opportunity zones. We see that in these areas the main places where food can be purchased is at convenience stores or various dollar stores. For people without transportation, this creates very little options for affordable or nutritious food options. Access is key. From there, various partners in our community can provide education and training for families.


How does this plan address barriers to entry for the workforce and education gaps to help fill these jobs locally and/or help serve low-income communities?

This plan addresses barriers by educating the business community that they exist, the reality of what they look like and our responsibility to do something about it. Thus, looking to our business community to provide mentorships and apprenticeships to new groups of people, to analyze the way we do work and how we address our employees who may experience barriers equitably. This plan is inclusive to our entire community and the actions steps will involve input and involvement from individuals in underserved communities to succeed. We must have people at the table who are experiencing these barriers to know how we can best assist and what resources we can and should offer. That is the first step. Additionally, partnering with the school district, higher education institutions and workforce/education providers to fill the gaps and provide solutions to the vast number of barriers that exist.


The plan explains that the military and defense industry make up 40 percent of Escambia County’s economy. What does the military pillar outline specifically on ways to support this industry?

The military provides the Pensacola Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) more than 8 billion dollars annually in economic impact. Our plan outlines ways our community can give back and support the military members, their families, veterans and installations to make our community a place of military excellence and a location of choice. Our community wants to find ways to better support veterans transitioning into the workforce, to help military spouses with employment and licensure, to provide quality childcare and create a premier education experience for military children and to, of course, be a welcoming and attractive community to want to retire. The military is the heartbeat of this community, and it is the goal of our business community to support and give back to them as much as we can.


What does the rollout for this blueprint look like and how will these goals be measured year-over-year?

The first year has been divided into four phases to give this initiative the proper foundation from an inclusive approach. Those phases are as follows:

  • Phase 1: Obtain data, discover needs, set goals and design blueprint

  • Phase 2: Community landscape analysis (who in our community is involved in these five focus areas), convene and provide information on strategies.

  • Phase 3: Set actionable steps to achieve the set goals

  • Phase 4: Activate action steps and track data annually

At the beginning of 2022, we will be hosting sessions for each focus area that will be facilitated by a consultant to help us develop our first 90-day plan. From there, these groups of service providers will continue to meet every 90 days to review progress, establish the next 90-day plan and review available resources, gaps and possible solutions. We have developed an annual scorecard to measure our goals year after year, and we will report annually to the community at our Foundation Gala in December.


How can business owners, organizations and residents get involved in this plan or support its initiatives?

The first step is to participate in our Community Landscape Analysis Survey. This allows us to identify who is providing what services in the county, invite them to the table and to additionally identify gaps in areas where resources are needed but not currently being provided. Involvement can also be in participating in our quarterly planning meetings, volunteering with the foundation or investing in the Pensacola 2030 initiative to help us carry out necessary resources and programming. For involvement, individuals can reach out to us directly at slefevers@pensacolachamber.com.


The Chamber wants to be a vehicle for change, but we cannot do this alone. Our motive is to align the community and to be a platform for the people making all these wonderful things in Pensacola happen. Our role is to convene and build capacity by identifying and optimizing resources to get the job done. We can’t do this alone, so please join us in this initiative.

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