Harper: Air Force Cuts Could Hurt Northwest Florida

Feb 7, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses the proposal by the U.S. Air Force to reduce its active-duty force by 22,500 or 7 percent in 2014. The more aggressive one-year reduction plan compares to previously announced plans to reduce the force by about 25,000 over five years.

Credit University of West Florida

“That of course is not happy news for Northwest Florida,” says Harper, who notes that over half of the active-duty military personnel in the state are based in the Northwest from Pensacola to Panama City. And, with Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field, Okaloosa County is the most-densely populated military jobs county in the state. Harper references comments by Congressman Jeff Miller that the cuts won’t hit Northwest Florida hard, given the missions that are based here including Special Ops, the F-35 training program, and weapons testing.

Also, the January ADP Jobs report is out and shows an estimated reduction in the rate of jobs growth for the month. The report shows the private sector added 175,000 jobs in January, marking the weakest month for hiring since August. In 2013, the average increase in the number of jobs created was 180,000-200,000 jobs per month. According to Harper, “January is never a good month weather-wise in some of the dense employment centers of the U.S. But, it was particularly cold and stormy this year, and so actually not such a bad jobs report.”

Finally, we shift the focus to the hiring of Pete Shinnick as the new head football coach at the University of West Florida and the potential economic impact of the football program on the Pensacola area. “Overall, it should be a modest, but positive impact to the local economy,” says Harper. He expects the largest component will be the increase in the university’s student population.

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.  http://www.uwf.edu/oede/, rharper@uwf.edu