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Mayor's Monday: Fed Shutdown & ST Aerospace

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

The partial shutdown of the federal government; Pensacola’s homeless and ST Aerospace were among the topics at Mayor Grover Robinson’s weekly meeting with the media on Monday.

Robinson said at this particular time, they are not expecting any effects on the city by the shutdown, which is now in its fourth week.

“Now, if the shutdown continues further than February, we will have significant impact at that point; we will begin to see impacts,” said the Mayor.

Not so much the city operations, says Robinson, but more in areas such as housing.

“We have a number of landlords that we pass along housing subsidies that come through,” Robinson said. “I don’t have the exact number or the exact total, but I’ve been told by our group that does housing that all those landlords got rent for February, but they won’t get rent for March. That will start creating impacts for housing for a number of our citizens in the city of Pensacola.”

Last week’s joint meeting between the City Council and Escambia County Commission, in part, dealt with homelessness. Robinson says there’s sort of a consensus from both panels to find a facility to turn into both a homeless shelter, and a central location for those associated with the issue.

“On the housing side, like Waterfront Mission, so that we can work through that,” said Robinson. “Or also food; to find places that provide food services as well as other services – like mental health at Lakeview [Center] and other things that will be there.”

Escambia County is looking to move forward with a program that would provide workforce training for the homeless, focusing on the construction trades. Another project supported by Commission Chairman Lumon May involves city assistance in expanding the staff helping local veterans obtain their benefits. 

“They said simply there’s way more demand than one person can handle; if they can get with us on what that might be, we might help with a portion of a second person going forward,” said Robinson. “We feel like [Pensacola is] 20 percent of the [county] population; if we’re 20 percent of the cost in working forward with that, we would be happy to evaluate.”

Another issue surfacing on Monday — again — was “Project Titan.” The plan to expand the ST Aerospace plant next to Pensacola International Airport an extra 655,000 square feet. ST is footing $35 million of the $210 million price tag. Local officials are hoping to get the remainder — about $25 million — in BP oil spill money through Triumph Gulf Coast. One “friend in court” at Triumph appears to be its newest board member – former Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward.

“I saw Ashton this past weekend and he was very committed to ST,” Robinson said. “We talked a little bit about the ST project. So, from that standpoint, I think we’re going to be moving forward to try to work with both groups in finding some additional money to make this thing happen.”

If all goes to plan, ST Engineering and the City of Pensacola will begin to develop the new facility in 2022. It will consist of three widebody aircraft hangars. That in turn, would mean 1,300 new jobs and a $400 million boost to the local economy.

Mayor Robinson met last week in Pensacola with Steven Lynn, ST Aerospace’s representative in the United States.

“We talked a lot about workforce training, there were some things that we’re very excited about that,” said Mayor Grover Robinson.” Obviously, that’s dependent on us getting ‘Project Titan.’ We explained to them that we probably need some level of this last $25 million probably shared between Triumph and the state of Florida.”

Additional meetings are scheduled for next week with state officials in Tallahassee, and with the Florida Department of Transportation in Chipley.