The Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee met at the Escambia County Board of County Commission (BCC) Meeting Room on May 6, 2013 at 4:00 PM to discuss a topic they requested input from economic development representative groups on the Return on Investment (ROI) Criteria for RESTORE Act projects to be funded. The RESTORE Act was signed by President Obama in July 2012 and describes how the projected award of 15 to 20 Billion dollars to Gulf Coast states is to be used to fund projects for coastal recovery. The Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee will recommend projects to the County Commission after they manage a civic engagement process of community input.
The Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce and the NAACP Economic Development Committee were both slated to make presentations. The President of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber, Jim Hizer, shared the results of their strategic plan which emphasized shovel ready development sites to serve as recruitment magnets for companies to locate in Pensacola. The chamber president also offered to assist the RESTORE Act Advisory Board in reviewing proposals for projects submitted for final review by the County Commission.
Tony McCray, Jr., Chairman of the Pensacola NAACP Branch Economic Development Committee, introduced the Hudson Strategic Group based in Atlanta, Georgia as a organization prepared to recommend ROI Criteria, in addition to a community involved process to ensure structured and objective decision making on projects to be proposed. Dr. Howard Rasheed, a Hudson business partner until his untimely death on May 6th, recommended Hudson to McCray several months ago. McCray stated that Dr. Rasheed had merged his research and work on innovation strategies with Hudson and their 20 year track record in business and economic development programs throughout the country. In fact, Dr. Rasheed was scheduled to be in Pensacola on May 6th to address the RESTORE Act Advisory Committee.
Joe Hudson, Hudson Group founder, emphasized assisting stakeholder’s participation in the project proposal decision making process by stressing the importance of setting priorities on return on investment aspirations and strategies to achieve what is important to them. Whether its environmental, work force, economic development, or infrastructure projects, supporters of each area will have different viewpoints on how they view return on investment. Unlimited requests from communities for support tend to occur when the government has not set any parameters or managed expectations effectively. Hudson shared their desire to facilitate open dialogue with communities on issues such as collaboration, budget, evaluation criteria, and cost-sharing.
Christian Wagley, the environmental representative, and Bentina Terry, city representative and Restore Advisory Committee Chair, requested that situations of disparity and documented needs be identified and presented along with ROI criteria that responds to those concerns at the next RESTORE Act Advisory Committee meeting on April 20th at 4:00 PM in the BCC Meeting Room at 221 Palafox Place downtown Pensacola.