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Mayor: Embrace Job Skills, Not Crime

Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson’s urging those in, or contemplating, a life of crime to explore other options – including with one growing company.

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Robinson based his remarks on last week’s shooting involving four men who fired gunshots at each other near the intersection of East Cervantes Street and North Ninth Avenue. Police are searching for them.

“I can’t say much because it’s in an investigation that [police] continue to pursue; I do want to say there are police officers working diligently all weekend on this, and we continue to be putting all of our resources into this,” said the mayor.

Robinson says he’s been in constant contact with Police Chief Tommi Lyter, discussing the case and its investigation.

“It’s unfortunate every now and then if somebody messes up if affects all 152 [PPD officers],” said Robinson. “But we have an incredible number of men and women who serve the Pensacola Police Department. Every day they do it right and work very hard to keep us safe.”

Before the question-and-answer session, Robinson delivered a message to those participating in this shooting, and other violent crimes in the city.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson at his weekly news conference on Jan. 13, 2020.

“There are only two ways out – you either get shot, which has happened – or you end up getting arrested,” the mayor said. “We arrested over 100 people dealing with gun violence over the fall. There are no retirements, you don’t see 100-year-old proclamations, and you don’t see retirement proclamations in this because it just doesn’t happen. This is going to end badly for you, one way or the other.”

It’s disappointing now because there was a time, says the mayor, that nothing was being done in Pensacola to provide economic opportunities for residents – which led to criminal activity. But that was then, he says, this is now. Case in point – an expanding ST Engineering according to ST Engineering’s chief integration officer.

“Bill Hafner came and talked about what happens to their airman institute, and what they can do, and what you can do once you get that license,” said Robinson. “It’s a five-year program, they’ll pay you while you’re there, and they’ve got a number of ways to go about it.”

Plans are to build three more hangars and expand ST’s maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) facility. Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, with completion in 2022. Speaking to reporters last month, Hafner used Boeing and Airbus as examples of the growth in the airline industry, both today and in the near future.

“The additional routes and globalization, both Airbus and Boeing predict a 5% annual expansion in revenue passenger kilometers,” Hafner said. “So miles flown are increasing, and that’s expected to remain over the next 20 years, as the projection.”

When all four hangars are in operation, they’re expected to create at least 1,700 jobs – with many of the works being trained at George Stone Technical School and local high schools. And Hafner added -- there’s more to ST than aircraft maintenance jobs.

Credit Dave Dunwoody, WUWF Public Media
Bill Hafner, Chief Integration Officer, ST Engineering-Pensacola.

“Maintenance is obviously our core business and that’s where most of the jobs will be – that’s what we do,” said Hafner. “But there’s also many other opportunities here; materials work, procurement, planning, finance, human resources, training, facilities and many other jobs. So if you’re not core maintenance, there’s still many other opportunities at this facility for folks of different disciplines.”

If you really want to make a break and you want to do something positive and want to get involved in a skill that gives you a career, Mayor Grover Robinson said this could be your chance.

“That makes you a productive member of our community and not have to deal with the violence of drugs and variety of other things; and this is not just to men, it’s also out there to women.”

The carrot in this carrot-and-stick scenario, says the mayor, is the earnings potential in these ST positions.

“Just with the regular [work] hours that they provide you could be making anywhere from $65,000-$75,000,” said Robinson. “If you work overtime you could be over $100,000 – which means you’ll make more than any elected public official in Northwest Florida. Which makes you smarter than most of us that run for office.”

And if you don’t want to work close to home, the global nature of the industry is wide open for those being trained here. ST Engineering plans to train roughly twice as many workers as they need in Pensacola because of attrition.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.