MIRAMAR BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — “Seeing Beyond” was the theme of this year’s annual Gulf Power Economic Symposium held on Thursday and Friday at the Baytowne Conference Center.
The annual event focuses on bringing Northwest Florida communities together to strengthen collaboration and encourage discussion on community issues and growth.
“This is the group that is moving northwest Florida,” said Dr. Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research for the Florida Chamber Foundation and a speaker at the symposium. “You’ve got business leaders, you’ve got community leaders, you’ve got people from state and local governments all here talking about the same thing; how can we make this area more prosperous, how we can help people provide for their families.”
The event featured more than twenty speakers, including some state and national officials like the Lieutenant Governor of Florida, Jeanette Nunez, and Assistant Secretary of the United States Air Force for Installments, Energy and Environment, the Honorable John Henderson.
Some who attended said the military was a focal point this year.
“This year we had a significant focus on the military, the future of our military, how that drives our communities and how we need to embrace our military communities,” said Executive Director of CareerSource Gulf Coast, Kim Bodine, who attended the symposium.
Asst. USAF Secretary Henderson said Florida is one of the most military-friendly states in the country.
“The relationship down here is of intrinsic military value,” he said. “The support that is provided to our airmen and their families and our mission is critical to our success.”
With that in mind, Henderson spoke about the Department of Defense’s continued commitment to rebuilding Tyndall Air Force Base in preparation for the F-35 and MQ-9 programs.
He also spoke on military communities and the importance of strong communities as the foundation for a strong military; according to Henderson, on average, 70 percent of service-members live off base.
Henderson said as the DOD works on solving service-member shortage challenges, starting this week, Air Force leadership will be rolling out new mission basing criteria, which now includes the quality of schools around bases and spousal employment opportunities in communities.
“We’ve been talking about doing this for a couple years, and how we would do it,” said Henderson. “Just us having the conversation the last two years, school boards have been now trying to make their schools better, states have been passing laws to make it easier for licensure portability between states.”
Click here to learn more about military-member retainment and why building stronger families and communities is becoming a focus for national defense strategy.