Florida West – the economic development arm of the Panhandle – is out with a new campaign.
“Remote from Here” urges cyber-workers up north braving another harsh winter are being courted either to move to the Florida Panhandle, or at least sign on to a company here without leaving home.
A new website, cybercoastflorida.com, is aimed at supporting the cybersecurity and information technology sector. Scott Luth, the CEO of the economic development firm Florida West, says this isn’t anything new for them.
“A target-industry opportunity that we started actually before 2017; with our partners – the existing cyber companies in town, our education partners and others, we recognize anew that this is going to be a talent-driven strategy,” said Luth.
Job one, he said, was to grow the region’s own talent pool, and he credits their education partners for doing just that.
“The Escambia County School District; George Stone [Technical Center], put in technical programs to support cyber,” Luth said. “Pensacola State stood up a lot of programs in cybersecurity/information technology, and then of course, the University of West Florida stood up a cyber center, and is now DHS and NSA certified.”
Luring people to Northwest Florida – either in-person or virtually – is only the first step. Next up, says Luth, is using the website and marketing campaign to make three pitches.
“How do you want to bring folks to the community who are remote workers and looking for a change of pace,” said Luth. “How do you attract talent that want to come down here and have a job, and tie them to the business community and hiring folks, or if you have an interest in bringing your company? We’re definitely open to this as well.”
The primary focus is building on the overall strategy and cyber-success that’s already been seen in the community with what Luth calls “public sector cyber.” That’s defined as protecting the federal missions from Corry Station; and growing cyber-talent from the private sector from the standpoint of the Navy.
“What we’re really trying to do is make sure that we become a cluster of place that looks at different strategies and the ways to support local government; city and county, state government, and then the federal government,” said Luth. “And so that’s our niche.”
The new ad began last week on LinkedIn and then on Facebook. Luth said they’re getting a lot of good feedback in that short time, after some beta testing and the marketing push of the past 30 days or so.
“We’ve definitely gotten some inquiries from individuals, from some businesses, and most importantly we’re also getting a lot of inquiries from national magazines from folks that are picking up the story,” Luth said. “The magazines that are picking it up are specifically in the cybersecurity industry sector. That’s been very exciting to get that kind of interest in what we’re doing here.”
The ads, according to Luth, are aimed at starting conversations among coworkers, family members, and cybersecurity company executives.
“They’re working with us to look at some packages that we want to begin to offer as, ‘Hey, if you want to come down here and try us out for a long weekend or a week and see what it’s like to be in the community or remote work from here,” said Luth. “Those are the things that we’re beginning to put together collectively with tourism, our hoteliers, our hospitality industry and our real estate community.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift towards working remotely – such as from home -- that likely become permanent for many in the tech and professional services fields. This is expected to grow as part of Florida West’s overall economic development strategies.
“We just think it has a lot of growth potential; and the ecosystem that can be built around this is tremendous,” said Luth. “I think it’s kind of early to say whether it’s going to be 20%, or 80% of our overall strategy or economy here, but it’s one of those that I think we can really carve out a specific niche around, and we can become known for this.”
According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the anticipated share of working days at home is set to triple after the pandemic ends—rising from 5.5% to 16.6% of all working days. Firms also anticipate that 10% of their full-time workforce will be working from home permanently five days a week.