A Busy Couple Of Weeks Set To Boost The Area's Economy

Nov 7, 2014

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses significant local happenings, including Pensacola’s new 12-day fall cultural event, the Foo Foo Festival.

Dr. Rick Harper
Credit University of West Florida

“It’s the thing we’ve been talking about for so long, which is the need to offer enough events and enough to do so that we have an opportunity to market the whole package and hopefully draw people who might want to spend a long weekend here, who might even want to spend a whole week here,” says Harper.
Foo Foo Fest is a celebration of new and established culturally creative happenings, events and experiences under one banner.
From November 6-17th, successful weekend anchor events such as the Blue Angels Homecoming Air Show at NAS Pensacola, Pensacola Marathon, the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival and the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival are complimented with events across the entertainment spectrum.
Seventeen other events include opera, ballet, theater, the fine arts, top-rated classical and popular music, African-American heritage events, a Japanese Film Festival and a comic/sci-fi enthusiast event featuring Ernie Hudson of Ghostbusters fame as just some of the many offerings.
Other events happening during the period include performances by Jerry Seinfeld and many regional music acts.
The Foo Foo Fest gives visitors a chance to experience Pensacola’s beautiful beaches and Fall weather during what is normally the traditional “off-season.”
Harper says marketing the events is especially good for businesses serving the tourism industry during the all-important shoulder season, which occurs locally in the fall (after the start of the school year) and spring (March through Memorial Day).
 “So, it’s important to build activities, because we’ve got capacity," said Harper. “And it’s real hard to run a profitable business in leisure and hospitality, whether it’s a restaurant or a hotel, if you’re only able to charge peak dollar to visitors during the ten-week summer season. So that’s why it’s so important.”
Also taking place this week at the Hilton Pensacola Beach is the inaugural Innovation Awards, presented by Innovation Coast, Space Florida and the Florida Small Business Development Center Network. Space Florida is providing the financial support that will allow prizes of over $215 in cash and prizes. This is the largest business plan competition in Florida, and Harper says it’s significant that some of the winnings will stay here in the region.
“If you win, you’re going to need to put a location in Northwest Florida, as a condition of actually entering the contest and winning the prize. So, I think it will be good,” Harper said.
Finally, Harper weighs in on ‘Jobs Friday.’ The ADP report released Wednesday predicts growth of 232,000 jobs for October. “I think we can expect to see another federal report in the area of 200,000 jobs. “It probably won’t move the unemployment rate significantly, but all in all, yet another good month for the labor market.”
Dr. Rick Harper is director of the University of West Florida Office of Economic Development and Engagement and is also director of the Studer Institute. rharper@uwf.edu.