PANAMA CITY Fla. (WMBB) — The City of Panama City has come a long way since Hurricane Michael, but there is still room to grow.
Friday, city officials shared their growth at the Bay County Chamber of Commerce’s First Friday event. Local business owner Michelle Clay said the city is bouncing back better than before.
“You can go downtown almost anytime or any day and there’s something going on and that wasn’t the case before the storm,” Clay said.
The city has invested nearly $400 million into infrastructure repairs, securing grants from multiple agencies for funding.
In return, the community is putting their money right back into the city.
Kevin Elliot with Wewa Films said even though the storm was terrible it opened the door to opportunities.
“All of a sudden since the storm we’ve been able to think big,” Elliot said. “For the first time in lots of our lifetimes we had the opportunity to think big and say, ‘okay we have in some ways a black slate.’”
Panama City City Manager Mark McQueen said businesses in the city have grown by 55 percent since before the storm, and over 34 thousand building permits have been issued to people who see opportunity. This equals out to around $2.8 billion worth of work happening within city limits.
“People don’t just invest unless they see opportunity,” McQueen said. “Clearly, the direction of the city, the investment of city resources into the future of the city I think is setting the condition for the success.”
There are three opportunity zones located in Panama City.
McQueen said the goal is to maintain the unique qualities of the city’s neighborhood while working to revitalize the economy and safety.
“People see the beauty of this community, the beauty of these people, the values that we have, the natural resources and the potential,” McQueen said. “I think these are all the key ingredients that are making it a desirable place for people to live, work and play.”
He said a lot of this is due to the resilience of the residents and business owners in the area.