Santa Rosa County is forging a partnership with the University of West Florida’s Haas Business Center to provide expanded economic analyses to county officials.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the project is for one year. Then it will be revisited to see if it needs tweaking.
“I have worked in this area for a long time in this and have often thought that it’s a good idea to try to spread that physical presence out a little bit. So I’m happy it’s being done and I’m eager to see what comes of it,” says Phyllis Pooley, Director of the Office of Economic Development and Engagement at Haas.
As part of the agreement, a researcher from OEDE will meet weekly with the Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office.
“We have often thought in the past that perhaps we should establish a physical presence in Santa Rosa County, in order to assist the economic developers,” Pooley says. “It is so much easier for them to bounce ideas off of us; ask us questions, if you’re actually kinds of sitting in the office with them.”
Economic development over the years has evolved into a very data-driven entity, says Pooley, with local developers being asked for all sorts of information about their communities on a regular basis partly through what she calls “expanded data” – evaluating opportunities that come into an economic development office.
“You don’t want to just take anything,” Pooley says. “If somebody says that they would like to locate 50 jobs, 100 jobs, or something in the [Santa Rosa] Industrial Park, that kinds of requires more than just telling them. It’s sort of evaluating what the other side presents as well.”
Numerous calls and emails to Shannon Ogletree, Santa Rosa County’s Economic Development Director for this story were not returned.
Another goal in the partnership is expanding what Pooley and her colleagues know about dollars and cents in Santa Rosa County.
“I personally would like to work on trying to do a little more forecasting for them; take a look at their bed tax collections, those kinds of ideas,” said Pooley. “Tap into the fact that we could build a little repository; there are so many data sources out there.”
Pooley is quick to add this partnership is a two-way road, with Santa Rosa also tapping into Economic Development and Engagement’s “third-party data” in helping the county with a major transition.
“Workforce is becoming everything in economic development; you can talk about having a ‘spec’ building, you can talk about needing to focus on your transportation,” said Pooley. “But the number one thing that potential employers want to know about is the workforce.”
Essentially, the workforces at such large-scale projects as ST Engineering, Navy Federal Credit Union and others need to be monitored — along with that educational programs they undergo beforehand — as they grow and add employees.
“I think there’s this new push, this new initiative,” says Pooley. “To kind of make this more of a unified, ‘let’s look at what people are learning in high school, let’s look at what the curriculum is in college, let’s see what the jobs are demanding that people know.’ And I think there’s a big effort out there to try to coordinate all of that.”
Pooley is hoping that they can take away from the partnership a better understanding of what Santa Rosa County businesses need in the workforce along with other areas.
“And I also think that [Santa Rosa County] will have the benefit of being able to make more data-driven decisions, so that they will know whether some deal that’s being presented is really a good deal for the community,” said OEDE’s Phyllis Pooley.
More information on UWF's Office of Economic Development and Engagement can be found at www.uwf.edu/oede.