Northwest Florida’s traditional reliance on tourism and on the presence of US military installations and personnel to drive growth has obscured the essential role overall business vitality plays in successful economies. The region’s vulnerability to external shocks and the need to develop a more diversified economy were illuminated first by the 2010 BP oil spill and then by defense spending reductions resulting from the federal budget sequestration process.
Recognizing the importance of a collaborative approach, Florida’s Great Northwest brought together a consortium of partners to craft a strategy to reinforce existing clusters, support the growth of emerging sectors, and generate higher paying jobs for all residents, including those in minority communities and rural areas. Over the course of five months, TIP Strategies worked closely with regional leaders to identify the most promising opportunities for transformative growth. Northwest Florida Forward: A Regional Strategy for Economic Transformation offered a candid evaluation of the region’s economic development challenges and opportunities, informed by quantitative analysis, reviews of national best practices, and qualitative input from across the 13-county region. It provided a holistic set of goals, strategies, and actions designed to ensure economic vitality through new investment and job creation, as well as the enrichment of the region’s talent base, innovation ecosystem, infrastructure, and quality of place. Implementation of the strategy was led by five regional councils aligned with the plan’s goals.