Dear Mayor Hayward and City Council:
Thank you for your willingness to serve the residents of Pensacola. While we all have different opinions on specific issues facing Pensacola, we should all agree that the desire for more jobs, less crime, and a better quality of life for the residents of Pensacola is in our mutual best interest. To accomplish these goals, it is necessary to attract and retain residents and investors to our community.
In that spirit, Rishy and I encourage you to create a comprehensive system/ process in which all people or organizations considering an investment in city properties can clearly and unequivocally understand the sales and leasing process. This should include standard template sales contracts, lease agreements, and all other tools necessary to rapidly advance a project.
The need for this work should be apparent to all of you. Confusion or lack of execution regarding private investment opportunities is not something new in Pensacola. Previous lost opportunities include AppRiver, Avalex, the Maritime Museum, and the Hawkshaw Eastside Project. More recently we can look at the Fish Hatchery, Hixardt, Penn Air, and the Maritime Y as situations in which opportunity was lost, squandered, or delayed. Had these investments been fully realized it would have created hundreds of jobs and increased the CRA tax base by $75,000,000.00 or more. If our city leaders cannot reverse this trend quickly the city will continue to experience high unemployment, decreasing tax revenues, rising poverty levels and too much crime.
Perhaps the largest private project in the CRA district is the Maritime Place, LLC office building at Maritime Park. The negotiations for this project were not typical of most private developments. Due to the desire of Rishy and me to invest in Pensacola, we agreed to a higher than market lease fee with no incentives– unheard of in this market for a $12,000,000.00 investment. Ironically we had to fight for the privilege of bringing this development to downtown. No other private developer would have tolerated the time, expense, and pain of dealing with the city and CMPA to make a project like this happen. If more private development is desired, things must change.
When the Studer Group works with organizations, we find that the strategy and structure of the organization is not nearly as important in achieving the desired results as many people believe. The most vital aspect of achieving desired results is the execution of a strategy and tactics utilized in the execution. Good execution is entirely dependent on the people serving in leadership roles of the organization.
For example, the charter government movement in Pensacola was less about people understanding how a new structure would be better than it was about dissatisfaction with the state of the city at the time of the vote. The new charter government structure can only be as effective as the people that occupy the positions of leadership in city hall, city council and the committee’s and boards appointed by those leaders. As Thomas Edison said “[s]trategy without execution is hallucination.” Unless people in positions of responsibility can work together, the city residents will pay the real price.
There is no perfect person, perfect plan, or perfect execution. Research on leadership in organizations recognizes that there will be missteps and obstacles. The key is to learn from missteps and turn obstacles into opportunities.
I applaud those who want to use the failure of the Maritime Y as an opportunity to create systems that will clarify the sales and leasing processes which will lead to more investment in the city. With the issues facing Pensacola residents a sense of urgency must exist. This sense of urgency was a driving force behind our desire to build a Maritime Y.
The City now faces a tipping point. The opportunity exists to outline a clear process in which potential investors can make intelligent and informed on dealing with the city, or we can continue to promote indifference, indecision and chaos. Based on recent history, the choice should be very clear.
In the mid 2000’s, we had a polling company poll the city residents on the potential of the Trillium property, now the community maritime park. The company stated that Pensacola was the most negative community they had polled. Usually about 20 percent or so of residents of any city first reaction to anything new is ‘no’. In Pensacola, it was in the mid thirties. We tend to have a culture of negativity versus optimism. Your leadership is vital in moving forward in a positive manner.
As the Maritime Y situation devolved into a political quagmire, numerous people said to us “don’t give up ” on the city. Like most of you, Rishy and I will never give up on making Pensacola a better place. However with any individual investor or organization, the more consistent and fair the process is, the better. Further, attracting investment requires optimistic elected leaders committed to simplifying opportunities that creating more jobs, lead to better education and a reduce crime.
These are priorities we all share that are vital to attracting and retaining residents and investors.
Quint & Rishy Studer