Northwest Florida’s Black Leaders Seek Public Input on Regional Development Blueprint

 

By: Tony McCray

Verdell Hawkins, Director of the Gulf Power Foundation, continues to facilitate the effort of Northwest Florida’s African-American Community and Business leaders to develop an eight (8) county strategic business plan.  The plan has been touted as more of a blueprint for building an holistic Community and Economic Development Strategy to be submitted to a non-profit corporation known as Triumph Gulf Coast. Triumph Gulf Coast was the non-profit created by the Florida State Legislature to manage the 75% ($1.5 Billion) of the $2 Billion in BP Oil Spill Settlement Funds targeted for 8 Northwest Florida counties.

There have been two initial meetings. One was held at Gulf Power as a follow-up to the Pensacola-Gulf Coast REAP Blueprint Summit held at the Pensacola Grand Hotel on September 30th and October 1st.  The second meeting was held at the DeVilliers Square Office Building in the Belmont and DeVilliers Business District. Planning for the next meeting is being discussed among the development plan’s organizers; however, there is consensus among the organizers that the planning process will remain open for input and revisions up until the first draft submission to the economic development consulting team out of Austin, Texas in December.  The strategy team will be utilizing Black media and other major media sources to announce meeting on the plan’s preparation.

Verdell Hawkins sent out the following email to update the community on the planning process. He wrote, “Thank you for your continued interest in this effort.  I would like to keep the group abreast of the latest developments.  Last week we held a small planning session to discuss ongoing development of a minority investment plan and contributions to the efforts currently being coordinated by Florida’s Great Northwest.  As a result of that discussion and the limited time between now and the consultant report to be provided by Florida’s Great Northwest in December, the group has decided to delay scheduling of a public meeting in Pensacola at this time.  Instead, we will assist with coordination of information sessions similar to that outlined in the attached notes with community leaders in Fort Walton and perhaps in Panama City.  This will enable the group to gain regional buy-in as suggested by our friends at Florida’s Great Northwest”.  He added in the writing of the email, “ The group may in fact assist with convening a public meeting to gain input on a minority investment plan at a later time, but given the timeframe and guidance, felt as if though the regional sessions with community leaders might be more worthwhile and manageable at this time.  If you have additional questions or comments, feel free to contact me via the information below or Tony McCray at 850.602.8257.”

On August 15th, the University of West Florida and Florida’s Great Northwest announced the award of an Economic Development Administration grant to develop a regional plan for submittal to Triumph Gulf Coast. The REAP Summit served as a strategic event focused on the same funding Florida’s Great Northwest is working with UWF on.  In fact, UWF is also providing consulting services to the REAP Summit’s lead non-profit, Unity In the Family Ministry.  The group may in fact assist with convening a public meeting to gain input on a minority investment plan at a later time but given the timeframe and guidance, felt as if though the regional sessions with community leaders might be more worthwhile and manageable at this time.  If you have additional questions or comments, feel free to contact me via the information below or Tony McCray at 850.602.8257.

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