UWF, Century Teaming Up for Economic Development
The University of West Florida and Town of Century are teaming up to develop a marketing plan to benefit the north Escambia County area.
The plan centers on helping Century beef up its business assets, then promote the town to site selectors, and firms looking to expand or re-locate.
“It was about a year and a half ago that we were first contracted to establish an economic development strategic plan that was paid for by a grant that the town received from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity” said Brice Harris at UWF’s Haas Business Center.
The plan for Century was finalized last summer. In turn, DEO awarded the town another grant – $40,000 – through the Competitive Florida Partnership Program. Five thousand of that goes to this new project.
Launched in February with $250,000, the program offers participants funding to help offset the cost of hiring UWF faculty, staff and students to conduct market studies, create promotional campaigns and other services to enhance marketability.
And just what goes into a marketing plan for Century? Harris says generally, you can think of it as identifying and defining the town’s available assets and telling Century’s story as one of resilience and determination.
“Whether they be the natural resources, such as the lakes, rivers streams and forests,” Harris said, “Also to include the newly-renamed Century Business Center – the industrial park that’s there as well. But also the geographic proximity of the town to Interstates 10 and 65, as well as to Pensacola and to Mobile.”
But there are some challenges. For one, a shrinking population. Century’s expected to go from its current 1,700 residents to around 1,500 in the next few years. Add to that a 20% unemployment rate and 40% of Century residents living at or below the poverty level. Transportation and daycare are other issues that need resolution.
In searching for new and expanding industries to come to Century, Harris says while the door is open for all comers right now, there are some that are more preferred than others.
“Light manufacturing, value-added agriculture,” said Harris. “But also in the recreational area. Sanders Lake and Lake Stone, and all of the forests there. I think those are a number of things that could really spark people’s interests in visiting the town, and hopefully, setting up shop.”
Individual awards from the Northwest Florida Asset Valuation and Marketing Support Program are limited to $20,000 to non-profits only. Participating organizations must also contribute at least one dollar for every dollar awarded through the program, which will go until the money runs out.