Buzz: Pensacola loses Caterpillar plant because of schools

February 23, 2012

Caterpillar Inc. announced last Friday that it had picked a site near Athens, Georgia, for a plant that will build small tractors and excavators, investing $200 million to shift some production from Japan. The facility will employ 1,400 people once it is fully operational in about five years. Construction will begin in the next 45 days. Another 2,800 jobs will be created among suppliers and other employers, according to the company and Georgia state officials.

Pensacola/Escambia County was in the running for this plant, but my sources are telling me that we lost out to Athens because of the weak public school system in Escambia County.

Supt. Thomas and the Escambia County School Board are costing us jobs. Whether anyone will openly say it, I don’t know, but prospective employers and large corporations want to know about the school system—-the entire system, not just the IB program and a few magnet schools.

Athens schools are in the Clarke County School District, which had 16 of its 20 schools meet the Average Yearly Progress (AYP) requirements. Many of the schools have done so 3 to 5 years.

Escambia County has 8 out of 50 schools that met AYP last year–no high schools did. The only middle school that did is the magnet school Brown Barge.

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  • Wayne February 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    Rick why donn’t you run for Thomas’s job. You seem to be able to know where to find the people to solve these problems. Would be a great help to the minority community.

  • Bob Daniels February 23, 2012 at 11:23 am

    When will the chamber deal with our educational system, after all they get tax dollars for economic development, the last thing we need is to lose more jobs, we are the poorest county in Florida.

  • eric February 23, 2012 at 11:22 am

    Not a realtor but I am happy I had the good sense to leave Escambia county,(as are my children) even if it means driving across a bridge every day (the best part of my commute actually)

  • Rose February 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

    How could West Florida High NOT meet AYP? They’ve been an A school for the last 6 or 7 years.

  • helpmehere February 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

    Eric – are you a Gulf Breeze realtor by chance?

  • Westsider February 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

    Its not too late. Have the Governor email them about corporate tax rates in Florida and then seal the deal with our brand new ferris wheel. WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeee.

  • eric February 23, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I’m not disagreeing that Esc schools are THAT bad. It is tough to buy that a company would locate not choose NW FL becasue of schools when there are some of the best schools a short drive across either of two bridges.
    If you said water/air quality, pollution and the ignorance of our local government as reasons, I’d certainly agree with that, but people locating here with any means and “sense” don’t move to Escambia county.

  • observer February 23, 2012 at 9:10 am

    The thing is, the powers-that-be have reduced the number of students allowed into Brown-Barge Middle School. It would be possible to have several hundred more students at Brown-Barge, and the faculty there would do their magic, because they have little or no concern about the FCAT. Their concern is teaching the students. If we could translate that to the rest of schools, we wouldn’t be concerned about them.

  • observer February 23, 2012 at 9:06 am

    Brown-Barge Middle School made AYP last year.

    • Rick Outzen February 23, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Thx. Had it on my list, but forget it was middle, not elementary.

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