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Looking beyond 2020 at the Gulf Power Economic Symposium

More than 500 business and community leaders gathered at the 23rd annual Gulf Power Economic Symposium with the theme “2020 See Beyond.” Its clear vision was shared over the two-day symposium, which is one of the longest-standing conferences in the region focusing on Northwest Florida’s economic future.  

“It goes beyond just making something different,” said Gulf Power Company President Marlene Santos.
“We must see beyond the perceived roadblocks and barriers that make dreams and aspirations seem impossible. We have to take advantage of the open doors of opportunities where barriers are broken and transformation is born.”

Marlene opened the event by sharing how Gulf Power is transforming the business. Among the changes were adding solar energy centers, converting its power plants to cleaner energy and improving reliability.

“We’re making smart investments on behalf of our customers that are delivering cleaner energy, more reliable service and an enhanced customer experience, with the ultimate goal of lowering costs for our customers,” Marlene said.

Mike Walsh, CEO of Tomorrow, a global consulting firm was the opening speaker. He advised company leaders on how to thrive in the current era of disruptive technological change.

“We are at the dawn of a new age,” Mike said. “Data algorithms are not just some gimmick that finds your friends on Facebook. It will determine the shape of our lives.” Mike shared several examples of how China is already changing toward the future because of the coronavirus outbreak. China has developed new forms of delivery without human contact as a large portion of business offices remained closed. School classes are livestreaming instruction to children who are staying at home and the country is shifting to digital commerce and currency.

Mike stated jobs will be constantly changing over the next five years and that people will have jobs in the near future that don’t even exist today. The key is to think 10 times more rather than 10% more.

“We’ve got to think about the forces being marshaled today in pushing things forward. Are you doing enough to prepare your coworkers and employees to change? What is your 10 times idea?”

Amy Holloway, founder and CEO of Avalanche Consulting, talked about next-generation economic development.

“Successful communities all have one thing in common — they value and encourage partnerships. There’s power in partnerships and that’s the next generation of economic development,” Amy pointed out.

Amy moderated a panel on economic development in action that included panelists Bill Hafner, chief integration officer for ST Engineering, Dr. Rick Harper, economic adviser of Triumph Gulf Coast, and Scott Luth, president and CEO of FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance. They discussed the creative partnerships that were leveraged to bring ST Engineering, an aircraft maintenance company to Pensacola.

“We had 30 to 40 different partners participate in the project,” Scott said. “We had to identify where the strengths of each one were and how do we work together to make it work.”

In addition, there were several other panel discussions tackling economic development in the region. For more information on the symposium, please visit www.GulfPowerSymposium.com.

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