Past President Jonathan Thompson talks about the PYP Quality of Life 2015 Community
Report Wednesday, October 21, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)
Escambia County residents feel better about their community than they have in the eight years that the Pensacola Young Professionals has been conducting the survey.
Here is a look at the report, which PYP released on Oct. 21. The poll was conducted of 800 registered Escambia County voters contacted by phone by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research from June 11-16, 2015.
And here are some highlights:
Who loves it the most? Retirees and young families. Of respondents, 73 percent think this is a good place for retirees; 60 percent think it is a good place for families with children.
Who is feeling more love than they used to? Entrepreneurs. In 2008, 30 percent of people thought this was a good place for new businesses. In 2015, that’s 44 percent. As a place for recent college graduates, Pensacola got a big bump, too — from 9 percent of people saying in 2008 it was a good spot for young adults to 16 percent in 2015.
What do we love the most? Our outdoor spaces. The things that make Pensacola truly special remain the natural beauty of our playgrounds, parks and beaches. The availability of good health care and a welcoming atmosphere for people of diverse backgrounds also ranks highly. Up nearly 30 points from 2008 — our nightlife.
Who is on the fence? Suburban voters. As confidence in city and county leadership and direction are high, suburban voters all seem to be watching it with bated breath. Only 47 percent are confident in the county leadership and 62 percent are confident in the city’s direction.
What’s fueling that ambivalence? Maybe the economy. Jobs and the economy remain as they were in 2008 the biggest issue facing the community. Only 34 percent of people say the economy is good or excellent — and only 30 percent are not concerned or not that concerned about their job security, or their family’s job security.
A whopping 60 percent are very or somewhat concerned; and 57 percent think economic conditions will the same or worse in five years.
That sense of economic insecurity is an issue for change advocates, elected officials, would-be investors and entrepreneurs, soon-to-graduate college students, and well, plenty of other folks.
Where are the jobs going? Hmmm. Thirty percent of respondents think the city does a good or excellent job of generating job growth compared to 22 percent for the county. This is one of the most interesting findings. Jobs in the finance and insurance sector of Escambia County have grown 95 percent — from 3,899 in 2001 to 7,587 in 2015.
For that, thank Navy Federal Credit Union.
Navy Federal has brought thousands of employees into Escambia County, Beulah is going from a sleepy rural area to a mini-city.
And with some 10,000 jobs promised at the Heritage Oaks campus, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger economic engine in the Escambia County.
Also worth noting: 78 percent of people think the county does a fair or poor job at attracting economic opportunity, and 69 percent of respondents say the same for the city.
Looks like not only do our economic development officials have to sell other areas on our pluses, they may also need to sell the locals, too.
What’s not making the grade? Education. When it comes to workforce readiness, 42 percent of respondents said the Escambia County School system does a fair job of helping the community’s economic development.
Another 24 percent said the system does a poor job.
What can parents do to improve the system? 48 percent of people said volunteering or mentoring students.
When it came to guidance for the elected leaders of our public school system, the answer was less definitive.
No one answer got more than 9 percent of the responses. The top five: improve academics, testing/Common Core, job training, better communication, better teachers.
Which shows the real answer to this issue will be a long row to hoe.