Harper Excited About New Role With Studer Institute

Aug 22, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper, assistant vice president of economic development at the University of West Florida, discusses the announcement this week regarding his new position with the Studer Institute.

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit University of West Florida

A partnership with UWF will allow Harper to become Director of the Institute.

“It’s an exciting opportunity,” says Harper, noting the data driven approach to solving the community’s problems. “Whether it’s wages, income security, income distribution, poverty, whether it’s which sectors are expanding, where is the job market going to be five years down the road. Those are all questions that can be fundamentally described with economic demographic, social data.”

Harper’s new role with the institute comes as the organization readies to publish a comprehensive Pensacola Metro Report as an insert in this Sunday’s Pensacola News Journal.

Harper contributed to this year’s report, collaborating with the Studer Institute’s President and CEO Randy Hammer. In 2001, Harper worked with Hammer on a similar report “A Special Place, A Crucial Time,” when Hammer was executive editor of the PNJ.

In terms of what the Studer Institute would like to accomplish, including the goal of ‘citizen-powered change,’ Harper says it became obvious that there was a good partnership to be had with UWF and its Office of Economic Development and Engagement (which Harper directs), along with the UWF Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development. “Because if you’re gonna talk about issues from the perspective of context, data, what is possible, then it’s clear that the University ought to be involved.”

That means Harper’s will generally serve as Studer Institute’s “chief interpreter” of the data generated about Pensacola.  

In this year’s 64-page “Pensacola Metro Report,” there will be numerous articles ranging from educational outcomes, including a focused look at Milton High School and what it’s taken to improve student performance. Also, the report includes a comprehensive look at issues related to Downtown Pensacola and its revival as an entertainment hub.

Harper’s article focuses on the change in Pensacola’s economy across the generations; moving from a manufacturing/military economy to a service economy, with a higher concentration of retirees.

Finally, Harper discusses the latest report on Florida tourism. A record 24 million people visited the state during the second quarter of 2014, from April to June. As a ‘drive-to’ destination, this region also has done well on the tourism front. “Yes, Northwest Florida has shown good growth in bed tax revenues and in visitors” he said.

Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement and is also director of the Studer Institute; rharper@uwf.edu.