Way back in 1992, the political wisdom of the day came down to one thing — it’s the economy.
In 2015 in Pensacola, it still is.
The Pensacola Young Professionals rolled out the 2015 Quality of Life survey on Oct. 21. The survey, conducted from June 11-16 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research asked 800 people who match the demographics of Escambia County how they feel about the place where they live.
The survey is paid for by entrepreneurs Quint and Rishy Studer, who also are the founders of the Studer Community Institute.
When the PYP survey debuted in 2008, jobs and the economy were the top issue. Seven years later, they still are. See the survey here. The survey is posting some of the highest positive findings since its inception in terms of how people feel about Pensacola’s prospects and future.
But the sense of economic unease remains just beneath the surface of the progress Pensacola has made.
— 65 percent of people surveyed rate Escambia County’s economic conditions as fair or poor. In 2008 it is 86 percent, which is indeed progress.
— But, in 2015 60 percent of the respondents are somewhat or very concerned about the security of their job or the job of a close family member. Im 2008, it was 59 percent.
I asked the folks at the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement if they could track by industry how job growth has changed in the county from 2001 to 2015.
Here’s what they found:
The climate in Pensacola is in many ways better than it was in 2008. The data from the PYP survey bears that out.
There are more jobs in Escambia County now than there were in 2001. The data from UWF bears that out.
But something about the data isn’t enough for many of our neighbors. The data bears that out, too.
There is a lot of upside to Pensacola.
The beauty of this piece of the planet is without peer. Compared to the winters I have spent in Pittsburgh, Chicago and West Virginia, this place is as close to heaven as I might get while still drawing breath.
The people are kind and open-hearted. The cost of living certainly makes it a nice place to live, work and raise a family if you so choose.
But sometimes you have to work to make it work here.
Compare our per capita income to state average. We earn some $4,000 a year less than our friends in the rest of the state. Compare our key education markers to the state average. Again, we lag behind our state peers.
Boosting one of those will boost the other. Every investment we make in getting a 5-year-old ready for school is an investment in more than that individual child. It is an investment in a future workforce that has the skills to fill the jobs our workforce demands.
Every $1 more an hour we pay a workers is more than an investment in that person’s paycheck. It is an investment in the peace of mind of community. A peace of mind that spurs innovation, entrepreneurship, growth and development.
Building that up is the real upside of Pensacola.