Todd Thomson Discusses Internship Program for Individuals with Disabilities

“We studied the Florida 2030 projections and know the challenges that our region faces in filling [the 6,000 new jobs Escambia County needs by 2030] and we absolutely believe that this type of internship program would be beneficial to our members. With the number of jobs that need to be filled, we need to find all sorts of candidates, and this type of internship program would be very important in trying to find those that are looking to fill these jobs,” said TODD THOMSON, Greater Pensacola Chamber Vice President of Public Affairs

The latest data available indicates an unemployment rate of 18.1 percent among Floridians with disabilities, nearly three times Florida’s overall unemployment rate. Smaller counties in Florida are not exempt from the problem either. Escambia County’s overall unemployment rate is holding at the same 6.3 percent as the state as a whole, but the county’s unemployment rate for disabled individuals is nearing the state average at an estimated 14.6 percent.

Todd Thomson, Vice President of Public Affairs at the Greater Escambia Chamber of Commerce, said his Chamber is looking to internship programs targeted at disabled job-seekers to help put a dent in those numbers and help the broader Escambia business community too.

“I think it’s an issue that’s not just important to our chamber, but I believe it’s an issue that’s important to the entire business community,” Thomson said. “That makes it even more important for us to provide opportunities for individuals who are looking for work and to educate businesses about these opportunities this [internship program] provides, and to try to bring that 14.6 unemployment rate down.”

Getting quantifiable results are important when determining the efficacy of the internship program, Thomson said, and direct feedback from participating businesses and organizations is perhaps the best way to tell how well the program is working.

“Surveys are one way we can measure the success…getting feedback from our partners and the other stakeholders who are involved with this process,” he said. “I think it’s just getting that data and feedback from the community to make sure we’re doing the right thing and making sure that these programs are successful.”

The Greater Pensacola Chamber has supported the Florida Chamber since 1936 and remains one of the Florida Chamber’s staunchest advocates in the Panhandle. Though Thomson is not a Florida Chamber board member, he and the rest of the Greater Pensacola Chamber have been an instrumental part of assisting the Florida Chamber’s efforts to fix the workers’ compensation issue facing state lawmakers in the upcoming Legislative Session. He said taking on workers’ comp-related problems is crucial for Escambia County and Florida as a whole.

“We’re looking at a number of important issues for the business community over here for 2017,” Thomson said. “First and foremost we’re focused on the workers compensation issue that they’ll be addressing in Tallahassee. This issue has a bottom-line impact on our local businesses and hopefully something can be done on the legislative level to fix that.

We’ll also be focusing locally on our…governments to make sure we have a good playing field for our businesses here. We feel pretty good about the way things are going here in Escambia County but we want to make sure that continues.”

Hayward Announces Up to 200 Manufacturing Jobs at Port of Pensacola

Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward today announced that a major manufacturing facility will be built at the City-owned Port of Pensacola, creating up to 200 new jobs. A lease agreement approved by the City Council in March and executed in May between the City and Port customer Offshore Inland Marine & Oilfield Services (OIMO) paved the way for the project.

Offshore Inland, a leader in topside and riding crew repair services, is joining forces with DeepFlex, the world’s only manufacturer of unbonded non-metallic pipe for deepwater applications, to establish a new unbonded flexible pipe manufacturing and qualification testing facility at the Port of Pensacola. The facility, which is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2015, will produce up to 62 miles of the specialized pipe per year.

“Throughout its long and storied history, the Port of Pensacola has often reinvented and reimagined itself to meet the needs of the times,” Mayor Hayward said. “From pine and pitch, wooden masts and sailing spars in the 1700s, to bricks and lumber and cotton in the 1800s; from coal during the war years to the peanuts, poultry, paper, and wind turbine components of more modern times, our Port has always reflected our region’s contributions to the world economy.”

“Two and a half years ago, I set out a new vision for our Port, designed to position it to better compete in a changing global marketplace and to be an economic engine for our region. We are beginning to see results. The constant modernization of subsea oil and natural gas production, combined with our nation’s renewed dedication to reducing dependence on foreign oil, has provided new opportunities for our historic Port to play an important role in our City’s economic growth and diversification,” Hayward said.

The OIMO/DeepFlex complex will be comprised of a heavily-renovated existing Port warehouse plus new buildings and infrastructure built on up to 3½ acres of undeveloped Port land. It will be capable of producing DeepFlex’s complete flexible pipe product range, including composite reinforced pipe structures (FFRP) and hybrid (composite and steel) reinforced pipe (FHRP), and is being designed with maximum agility and flexibility in mind so OIMO and DeepFlex can rapidly respond to the evolving needs of the ultra-deep subsea marketplace.

The pipe produced at the facility will leave the Port as cargo either by truck, rail, barge, cargo ship or direct load-out to subsea pipe-laying vessels calling at Offshore Inland’s existing Gulf of Mexico Offshore & Subsea Support Services Center on the west side of the Port. As such, in addition to rent, it will generate income through the various cargo and vessel fees normally associated with Port activity.

In cooperation with Mayor Hayward’s office, the Greater Pensacola Chamber helped the

companies navigate the site selection process as well as available local, regional, and state incentives. Cooperation among several other local, regional, and state partners – including the Office of Governor Rick Scott, Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the Florida Department of Transportation, and Escambia County – was also instrumental in facilitating the project. The project was also supported by two special regional initiatives: Gulf Power Company’s Job Creation Rate Incentive, which offers discounts to new and existing customers who add jobs, capital investments and new electrical loads to the region; and the Industry Recruitment, Retention and Expansion Fund, a regional economic development initiative administered by the University of West Florida and appropriated by the state legislature.