UWF’s Haas Center to Lead in Setting Strategic Economic Plan for Florida’s Great Northwest

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Adjustment Assistance, the University of West Florida’s Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development will take a major role in creating an economic development strategic plan for Florida’s Northwest region.

The University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development is the recipient of U.S. Economic Development Administration award, “Regional Strategy for Economic Transformation.” This grant will allow UWF and its partner Florida’s Great Northwest to develop and begin implementation of a regional economic development strategy.

Florida’s Great Northwest is the regional economic development organization serving 13 counties in Northwest Florida. UWF’s Haas Center will provide all economic research associated with the project and is the fiscal agent for the EDA grant which was secured to fund this work.

“We are excited to bring our staff’s expertise to this project,” said Dr. Rick Harper, associate vice president for research and economic opportunity at the University of West Florida.

The strategy development process will include stakeholders in the thirteen counties of Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Washington, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf and Wakulla.

“Northwest Florida has a great need – and now more than ever – to go through a deliberately inclusive process of building a data-driven, actionable, regional economic transformation strategy,” said Kim Wilmes, President & CEO of Florida’s Great Northwest. “We are at a critical juncture in time and have the opportunity to plan how best to grow the region. Now is the time to ensure our future economic success.”

The plan will develop a regional strategy to transform the area’s economy. The product of this work will be used by multiple regional stakeholders to guide the development of programs, partnerships and investments to execute on the multiple components of the regional strategy.

“The research will consider things like business structure/performance, employment, wage growth and other factors to develop the economic development plan,” Harper said.

The Haas Center will complete SWOT analysis of the region’s economic landscape, including an economic and demographic assessment, literature review of existing strategic plans and studies, and industry and entrepreneurial ecosystem analyses.

“The EDA grant enables us to look deeper than ever before into the region’s data to uncover the subtle factors that drive the Northwest Florida economy,” said Zach Jenkins, Director of the UWF Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development. “Understanding how each local piece fits into the region’s economy will be critical forming a plan that has the best chance at success. We are thrilled that the EDA has given Northwest Florida this unique opportunity and honored to be part of such an important project.“

Preliminary work on the project has begun and the project will continue to grow over the coming months.