Business & Economy

UWF Haas Center to host inaugural Fall Forum

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, chairman of Ridge Global LLC and the first U.S. Department of Homeland Security secretary, will be the keynote speaker when the Haas Center at the University of West Florida holds its inaugural Fall Forum. Ridge will share his thoughts about organizational resiliency and the importance of managing cyber risks in today’s digitally connected global economy at the forum on Thursday, Sept. 26, at the Studer Community Institute Building, located at 220 W. Garden St. in downtown Pensacola.

The forum will feature speakers, workshops and panel discussions covering economic development, data-driven storytelling, disaster recovery and data collection and analysis. The event will begin at 8:30 a.m. Doors open at 8 a.m.

The breakfast keynote speaker will be Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

“Hopefully people will walk away from it with some meaningful steps and examples of how to use data to communicate value,” said Amy Newburn, associate director of the Haas Center, which is a research and consulting arm of UWF.

Panel discussions will include:

  • Dr. Michelle Horton, director of Complete Florida, will discuss the impact of higher education in Florida.
  • A team from Economic ​Modeling ​Specialists ​Inc.  will share how to use data to tell a story.
  • A lunchtime panel conducted by Mike Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network; Becca Hardin, president of the Bay Economic Development Alliance; and Dr. David Berlan, an assistant professor at Florida State University will discuss the impact of and recovery from Hurricane Michael. The panel will be moderated by Sandy Sims, director of external relations at Gulf Power Company. .

A workshop conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau on how to use the Census Business Builder will be available for participants. That service is used by small business development centers, chambers of commerce and nonprofit organizations across the country to help with grant applications and to assist clients.

Consultants from the Haas Center and officials with Economic Modeling Specialists will also be available after the forum to meet with attendees.

“The event will serve as an end cap on what will be a yearlong initiative to highlight the Haas Center as the regional data source, as well as help people understand how data can be used effectively and meaningfully in their community,” Newburn said.

Registration is $150, though the early bird rate of $125 is available until July 14.

The Census Business Builder Workshop is available for $25.

To register for the event, visit