Lost in the announcement yesterday that Navy Federal Credit Union plans to increase its workforce by 2026 at its Beulah campus was the role Senate President Don Gaetz played, with the help of Lewis Bear, Jr. who was working in his capacity as part of the Greater Pensacola Chamber, in creating the incentives to make it possible.
Gaetz authored the Oil Spill Recovery Act, Bear lobbied the lawmakers for its passage, and Governor Rick Scott signed the bill into law. That act directed UWF’s Office of Economic Development & Engagement to administer a three-year, $30 Million economic recovery fund, which became the Industry Recruitment, Retention, & Expansion Fund – or IRREF – Grant Program.
The IRREF funds have supported the creation of about 9,000 net new, sustainable, high-wage jobs, and the retention of thousands more, across the region—many of them at Navy Federal Credit Union.
UWF Director of Strategic Initiatives Brice Harris didn’t forget and mentioned Gaetz in his remarks at the press conference.
“When you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get there by himself,” said Harris, who also recognized the role of all entities involved.
He said, “The success of the IRREF program has been built on partnerships at the local, regional, and state levels – from UWF, to local economic development organizations, to Enterprise Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity, to employers like Navy Federal Credit Union.”