Saturday, May 9, 2009

Here is the Council presentation for Pensacola's Promise

I have attached a summary of the proposed scope and finances of the College Tuition Program. A few notes:

  • The Northwest Florida industry focus clusters are shared by the Chamber as well as State Economic Development organizations.
  • The proposal as is only reflects 2 years of college for City high school graduate /residents
  • It assumes that 100% of City of Pensacola graduates WANT to go to college.
  • It assumes that the number of graduates grows at 2% per year in the City.
  • It assumes "bright futures" use those state benefits.
  • Student numbers come from the Florida Dept of Education
  • Graduation rate comes from the Florida Dept of Education and ECSB
  • Bright futures numbers also come from the Department of Education
  • Tuition rates come from PJC per semester hour
  • Tuition is estimated to grow at 7% per year
  • State match is assumed at 50% which is conservative based on discussions with PJC staff
  • City funds are limited to the $3.3 million from the airport sale and $2.1 million annually once the current debt obligation of the City is extinguished.
  • It assumes no earnings of the City's surplus from investments.

As you will see providing at least a 2 year education to every child in the Pensacola City Limits that graduates from a public school is POSSIBLE and even generates a surplus to go toward additional education. Study the numbers. Think of the possibilities. Remember that implementing this plan calls for NO additional tax revenue on the citizens.

To view the presentation click the following link.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Found Money

In the spring of 2001, with a 2 year old and our second baby on the way we made some decisions for the future while we had a sum of "found money" in hand. Funds came partly from the sale of my Jeep CJ 7 that I no longer needed as a mother of 2, and partly from a gift in my father's will after he died earlier that year.

Now with 2 babies and one income, we needed every penny of what we had in hands just to cover our current commitments yet we took ALL of the funds and invested in Florida Prepaid College. At that time we purchased the plans as 2 & 2 plan first in junior college then on to university.

For our little German souvenir ,also known as Lumpy, we once again took every penny of our savings, emergency funds, tax refunds, IOU's, coupons, garage sale proceeds and all the spare change in the junk drawer ( more than you imagine) and invested in his future. We have a house full of used furniture and generous hand me downs from friends, we make it work with what we have.

My point is this, we made the decision to take the hit now for a known investment we needed to make in our children's future. It was not comfortable and we could have used the money for expenses in our daily lives, yet we can now rest well and know our investment was a good one.

Pensacola has "found money" in the sale of the College Blvd property and yes we could just insert the funds right into the general fund and cover daily operations, yet years from now we will never know the difference and the $3.3 million will be long forgotten.


We can make an investment in the children of this community, an investment in our future for the future. The funds have a multiplier effect just by investing in education. The pride that families will feel to live in a community that is investing in their future. The solid workforce we will have to offer new businesses. The magnet our city will become to surrounding areas simply by having an educated workforce as one of our tools for economic development. The increase in population and property values has shown to be true the Kalamazoo plan and can reverse our exudus of citizens.

In a meeting this week, someone said to me if we as a city would just make an investment in our citizens it could cure so many problems we face today...just to invest in their lives in a positive and productive way. How better to give hope and peace of mind to our families here in Pensacola??

The portion our city would give to fund these scholarships can be matched by grants already available from the state. The plan is solid and merits our continued investigation. After 2 failed efforts with the city manager for space on the agenda, I published my presentation to the web, printed 12 copies and at the very end of the meeting,during council communication, gave my fellow council members my presentation. Most members were already packed to leave, most tired from the previous benefits and pension discussion, yet they listened and heard the possibilities this plan has to offer. I will make a formal presentation during our Goal Setting Session in June and continue to investigate the numbers and meet with educators throughout our community.

Please contact me if you have any ideas to further this effort.

Take Pause

Today we took pause to honor our Pensacola Police Officers killed in the Line of Duty
Roll Call of Heroes
J.W.R. Gordon September 22, 1889
John Yelverton June 3, 1899
William Burnham March 18.1906
J.D. Carter April 4, 1909
C.F. Bazzell March 16, 1932
Clinton A. Green February 26, 1938
Archie Bowman August 19,1938
Herbert Tommy Hatcher January 15, 1939
Louis J. Champa May 27, 1951
Curtis Neal Jones June 27, 1980
Amos Cross September 12, 1980
Stephen A. Taylor October 19, 1982
Glenn Rowe Austraw February 26, 1997
Well Served Peace Officer. May you Rest in Peace.
Today take pause to say a quiet Thank You to all that have lost their lives in the line of duty. I honor their commitment to our community and know the sacrifice all of our men and women in uniform are making every day. Pensacola has a top notch group of officers doing their work to make our city a safe place to not only live but thrive in. They have families too yet each day they wear the uniform and go protect our community...they are our Peace Officers.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Guest Blogger: Jeff DeWeese

Maren asked if I would take the time to share my experiences regarding the setup and effectiveness of our local economic development efforts based on my experience with the start-up of the General Electric Plant on Scenic Highway. Being fairly active in the Pensacola Chamber I see the current efforts made to recruit new business to Pensacola. My experience of having been on the receiving end of the economic development process during my time with GE however offers a little different perspective.
I was one of the first people hired when the plant was purchased from Westinghouse in 2000. The purchase entailed numerous local economic incentives including property tax abatement, workforce training funds, tangible and sales tax abatement and substantial assistance by PJC.
By far, the incentive most valued by GE was the workforce development incentive offered by Workforce Escarosa and Pensacola Junior College. Tax abatements are common and not a differentiator to companies these days. Education and commitment in the area to training the needed workforce was the major value perceived by GE.
GE has plants all over the world, but many are staffed by employees with no post high school education and who receive on-the-job training to perform a specific role or function. Many of these plants such as in Schenectady, New York have been in place for as long as 75-100 years. Being the progressive company it is, when GE purchased the Pensacola site, GE Human Resource management decided that in order to make the maximum return on investment the Pensacola site needed the most dynamic and adaptable workforce in the Energy sector.
When Westinghouse closed the Pensacola plant in 1998 it laid off 650 Pensacola area workers. As part of the layoff, Westinghouse offered employees a college tuition assistance program. Most Westinghouse employees DID NOT ACCEPT THE OFFER.
When GE bought the plant, in order to ensure a workforce that was self directed, had the ability to work in many areas of the process, had the capacity to learn new and different skills such as Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, GE insisted that each new hire have AT LEAST an Associates degree in order to interview. Therefore, MOST of those laid off by Westinghouse were ineligible even to interview for the new high paying jobs. Once in place the 181 GE employees at the plant formed one of the best labor forces in GE and rapidly equalled the output of the Schenectady plant's workforce in Generator manufacturing. The employees needed less management oversight, less engineering direction, and had a much greater capacity to see the entire process and find the most cost effective means to produce the product.
Once the power generation bubble burst in late 2001, GE had insufficient orders to keep 2 generator plants active. Due entirely to the education, adaptability and self directed nature of the Pensacola workforce, GE transitioned the plant from generator manufacturing to the manufacturing of wind turbine blades. The two processes are as different as night and day. Once again the local GE employees had the capacity to learn new concepts and techniques, most of a much more precise and unforgiving nature as mistakes in blade manufacturing can cost $20,000 to $30,000 each. The plant continued to be a shining example of adaptability.
Finally, due to the rapid rise of the wind turbine market in the last few years, the plant has had to adapt once again into wind turbine generator assembly. The plant has had 3 major shifts in the last seven years. The Pensacola workforce and its ability to rapidly change is discussed and admired throughout all of General Electric.
This success was created by a Company demanding an employee with the capacity to learn new and advanced concepts and a workforce development incentive built around education not tax give aways.
When Maren began talking about the Kalamazoo plan, I immediately saw the natural benefit it would provide our community based on my GE experience.
Alabama offers tax breaks, invests pension funds in new developments and spends the millions of taxpayer funds needed to attract the Billion dollar investments. Unfortunately the State of Florida will not assist Northwest Florida with these types of programs.
I see few Pensacola graduates using the proposed plan to go straight to UWF. Due to UWF admission requirements most would actually be covered under Bright Futures anyway. I see the major beneficiary being kids in Pensacola who graduated from high school but with less than a B average. I believe these kids without this program will merely enter the workforce and begin working in whatever job they can find. The program Maren proposes will allow them to acquire additional skills in areas that interest them, training and education that will make them more attractive to both local employers and new businesses.
Finally, instead of investing substantial City tax dollars in chasing the elusive elephant to relocate to Pensacola, we would be stepping out to invest City dollars, in City residents, to attend City colleges. Dollars that in turn will be spent by the College in salaries and benefits that are pumped back into the local economy.
I for one think that based on my experience and history, her idea shows a track record of success and should be aggressively explored.