Escambia County and Northwest Florida Counties Form Coalition to Access $2 Billion RESTORE Funding
Escambia County was well represented at the meeting attended by officials from eight (8) Northwest Florida county governments held in Walton County on Monday July 27th. The focus of the meeting was the organizing of the governments into an entity which would strengthen their access to the $2 Billion RESTORE Funding sent to the State of Florida as a result of the BP Oil Spill Settlement. The staff of Congressman Jeff Miller and Congresswoman Gwen Graham were also in attendance and made presentations of support for the regional collaboration. The meeting was organized by Bill Williams, Walton County RESTORE Coordinator, and State Representative Doug Broxson from Santa Rosa County.
Escambia was represented by County Commissioner Doug Underhill, and County Administrator Jack Brown. Jack Brown presented with two other county administrators on the importance of organizational structure, collaboration, and strategic alliances among the eight county governments and their supportive agencies. Commissioner Doug Underhill spoke on the eight county organizational vision, process and outputs. His comments covered the unique opportunity for technology to generate transformative economic strategies utilizing the one-time financial windfall from the RESTORE Act. Underhill expressed how technology allows Escambia County and Northwest Florida to achieve the aspirations of what they always dreamed they could be.
The U.S. Department of Commerce contributed to the presentations on programs, funding, and technical assistance available through their Senior Advisor on Gulf Restoration, Teresa Christopher; the Assistant Secretary of EDA Regional Affairs, Tom Guevara; and National Deputy Director of the Minority Business Development Agency, Albert Shen. The Commerce officials added to the collective persuasion toward the importance of strong collaboration and commitment to regional economic growth.
Dr. Rick Harper, Economist, from the University of West Florida closed the meeting with comments on strategy and provided ideas on next steps to move the agenda forward. He offered the services of his office in his new position as the UWF Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Opportunity.
The Pensacola Voice Newspaper, in an example of its RESTORE Act coverage, reported in a September 2014 article, about a meeting that Dewberry Consultants (hired by Escambia County) held with representatives of the CIL Disability Resource Center, the Gulf Coast African American Chamber, the NAACP Pensacola Branch Economic Development Committee, and the African-American Heritage Society on Friday September 19, 2014 encouraging a similar path of coalition building. The article emphasized the county consultant’s comments on the importance of non-profit and for-profit business collaborating as a strategy for successfully navigating through the Escambia County RESTORE Act process very similar to the plans of Northwest Florida counties.
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