FloridaWest Means Business, Commissioner Underhill Wants to Cut Their Budget

By: Tony McCray

Recently, FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance announced, The Bluffs, Northwest Florida’s Industrial Campus, received $3.1 million in funding for site connectivity and infrastructure improvements as part of the 2017-2018 State of Florida budget signed by Governor Rick Scott. This funding was supported by many public officials including Pensacola Mayor Hayward.  FloridaWest has been the economic development engine for the Greater Pensacola Area and the group is led by Scott Luth, a former Pensacola Chamber economic development staff person.

FloridaWest is actively recruiting businesses to locate in the Greater Pensacola Metro Area with the goal to create more jobs here.  In an interview with the Gulf Coast Voice Scott Luth reported, “that in the last 3 years FloridaWest has had a direct impact of creating 6200 jobs in the Greater Pensacola Area”.  With our beautiful beaches, some companies are seeking to establish a location in this area known for its tropical atmosphere and lifestyle.

However, Escambia County Commissioner Doug Underhill wants to cut the budget of FloridaWest and no longer fund their operations! Underhill has stated publicly that as part of his strategy to balance the county’s budget, he has proposed defunding FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance.  The debate continues as the July meeting, to begin the budget decision making, nears. The Gulf Coast Voice reached out to Commissioner Underhill, however, he was in attendance at the Florida Association of Counties Conference in Palm Beach, Florida.

One of the major projects of FloridaWest is a campus for manufacturing companies to co-locate.  The FloridaWest website states: “Welcome to the Bluffs, Northwest Florida’s Industrial Campus. An expansion of the existing manufacturing corridor, this new master-planned campus has been designed to allow flexibility to accommodate a range of advanced manufacturing operations.  Of the 6,349 total acres of the site, more than 2,500 are available for use comprising more than 60 sites”. The website goes on to describe the lots average size as in the 10 to 50-acre range.  However, the site states that the locations can be designed for much larger project needs.

Josh Womack, a member of the Cantonment Improvement Committee, stated to the Voice, “ I would think that if this Bluffs project is going to be in our back yard then I would hope that the group speaks with T.J. Lee the leader of our association.  The project is on the back end of our Community Redevelopment Area (CRA).  The Voice followed up with Luth who stated that his agency has reached out to Clara Long at the County and definitely wants to speak and work with any group interested in the creation of jobs and economic opportunity.

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