The Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee focused on job creation and workforce development at their every-other-Monday November 4th meeting at the Escambia County Commission Chambers at 221 Palafox Place near the Palafox and Government Streets intersection in Downtown Pensacola. The RESTORE Act was signed by President Obama in July 2012 and describes how the projected award of BP Oil Spill penalties in the amount of $10 to $20 billion dollars should be managed by Gulf Coast communities from Texas to Florida for coastal recovery.


The Escambia County RESTORE Act Advisory Committee, chaired by Gulf Power’s Vice President, Bentina Terry, will recommend projects to the County Commission after they manage a civic engagement process of community input and comprehensive planning. On Monday, the Advisory Committee voted to recommend to the County Commission that a Request for Proposal be issued to hire a consulting group to assist in the design of the return on investment criteria and the application process.


Scott Luth, Senior Vice President for Economic Development of the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce led the guest speakers targeting how the RESTORE Act funding could address workforce development and the challenges of:

  • Increasing Wealth
  • Growing the Economic Pie
  • Ensuring Jobs
  • Economic Expansion & Diversification
  • Improving the Quality of Life
  • Strengthening Our Economic Future


Luth’s presentation then began to focus on how economic, community, and workforce development are all inter-related with a graphic of interconnected circles. He spoke on the priority of an inventory of Available Sites and Buildings for businesses locating in Pensacola and Escambia County, Business Parks, Military and Department of Defense Contractors, Transportation Infrastructure, and recruitment of Leading Employers.    The Key Industries indentified were:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Aviation/Aerospace
  • Maritime
  • Information Technology
  • Back Office/Call Centers


The next presenter was Jennifer Allen McFarren, Director of Workforce Development, Pensacola Chamber of Commerce who introduced Christopher “Rod” Lewis, Ph.D., Director of the Hass Center, at the University of West Florida by asking the question of “Now what?” after Scott Luth’s presentation of the Chamber’s focus.  Her answer to the question was for the Chamber to provide programmatic solutions that can be implemented to narrow our workforce gap.

Rod” Lewis, Ph.D., Director of the Hass Center, at the University of West Florida went on the answer several questions:

  • What is Gap Analysis?
  • What Will It Tell Us
  • How Can We Use It?
  • What Does the Process (of Gap Analysis) Look Like?


The target area identified for the workforce development strategy was presented as:

  • Pensacola Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Mobile Metropolitan Statistical Area
  • Northwest Florida Region
  • State of Florida


The next presenter was Susan Nelms, Executive Director, Workforce EscaRosa funded by the federal government’s Department of Labor (DoL). Nelms described her operation as solely federally funded assisting the following:

  • 99,696 Customers
  • 15,456 Unemployed
  • 38,122 Welfare Transition Clients
  • 50% Female 50% Male
  • 67% Between Ages of 18-44 Years
  • 20% Between Ages of 45-54 Years
  • 31% Black
  • 61% White

She stated that $5,000 per fiscal year for training is approved for demand occupations only, and Pensacola State is largest provider of training.


Workforce readiness was defined as a separate need from workforce development with defined outcomes determined by the short term success of pre-test/post test results, kindergarten readiness scores, and enrollment increase is in STEM programs.  Long term success would be determined by increase in per capita income, rate of high school graduations, and math and science standardized test improvements. More of the presentation can be found on the web site at the RESTORE Act Advisory Committee link.


The Economic Development Committee of the local NAACP Branch presented decisive factors during a RESTORE Act Advisory Committee meeting in May for a return-on-investment criteria that would recognize that spending with minority underutilized businesses is actually an investment (not an entitlement) with returns that lead to the achievement of economic value-added impacts of jobs, business contracts, and the circulation of income in the minority community.

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