The genesis of both the partnership and Harper’s new job took place a number of months ago, and is partially related to his longtime friendship with former Pensacola News Journal publisher Randy Hammer, who’s now the Studer Institute’s President and CEO.
Harper, who will continue as Director of UWF’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement, says it was clear to him that the university needed to be involved.
“Because if we’re going to discuss data and have data-driven discussions of where the community goes, then our Haas Center, our Office for Economic Development and Engagement really know that data, backwards and forwards.”
Harper joined the UWF faculty in 1989 after earning his PhD in economics at Duke University. His primary responsibilities at the Studer Institute will be to help explain the data series that describe the Pensacola area.
The numbers evaluating the Pensacola Metro’s performance and standing relative to other communities, says Harper, must pass three crucial tests: accuracy, credibility, and relevance.
“I’m going to help the community understand how to describe the things that are happening,” said Harper. “Which ones are kind of beyond our control...versus the things that we can control locally.”
Harper adds that they have to understand these data in the context of the overall community, its history, and what is possible in the future. Earlier this summer he completed a two-year assignment as senior policy advisor for economic affairs to the Florida Senate.
Institute Founder and Chairman Quint Studer, quoted in the news release, says Harper “brings to the Institute an unparalleled credibility and experience in analyzing and clarifying important measures of the Pensacola area.”
Dr. Rick Harper begins his tenure as Institute Director immediately with a two-year contract. The first report on the Pensacola metro area, 62 pages,will be inserted into the Sunday PNJ, with copies available around the area.