On this week's Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses two economic development projects being pursued by the City of Pensacola. One plan calls for the expansion of ST Aerospace to Pensacola International Airport. Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward and the city have a memorandum of understanding with the aviation maintenance company, which currently operates in Mobile.
The estimated cost of the project is $37 million and is expected to create at least 300 new jobs. “That would be an important development for Pensacola,” Harper says. He sees it as fitting into the bigger picture of the Airbus facility opening in Mobile, with about 1000-1200 workers to be directly employed at the plant in final assembly of commercial jet aircraft. Also, there will be a supply chain for that facility.
Additionally, Pensacola is moving forward with plans for a fish hatchery to be located on the downtown waterfront, city-owned Bruce Beach. Harper acknowledges that he hasn't conducted his own review of the underlying impact studies, but his initial assessment is that the hatchery project will not be as beneficially economically, particularly in terms of jobs or tourism.
However, Harper believes that it is Pensacola’s decrease in crime that is most significant. The city’s Uniformed Crime Report for 2013 showed an 18 percent drop in violent crime and a 14 percent decline in non-violent crime. He references Edward Glaeser’s book Triumph of the City, which talks about what’s important for local areas that are looking to grow and improve their quality of life or recruit new business. “Safe streets and good schools are really the fundamentals that people look for when they consider a community for relocation or for an expansion of their business. So, a drop in crime rate is always a good thing,” says Harper.
Dr. Rick Harper is Director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement. He’s currently serving as Senior Economic Policy Advisor to the Florida Senate.
Harper can be reached at email@example.com.