Northwest Florida Forward provides a holistic set of goals, strategies, and actions designed to ensure economic vitality through new investment and job creation, as well as the enrichment of the region’s talent base, innovation ecosystem, infrastructure, and quality of place. The regional transformation strategy is not the responsibility of one organization to implement. It is a strategy for the entire region and will require many engaged partners for it to be successful.
Northwest Florida FORWARD began with the discovery phase in Fall 2015, where existing strategic plans from the local, regional and state level were reviewed; a presentation on regional economic transformation was made to the Triumph Gulf Coast Board; and research was conducted on strategic plans and processes implemented by other regional entities in the U.S.
Florida’s Great Northwest and University of West Florida received an EDA grant in Summer 2016, which allowed the strategy development phase to begin. Over the course of five months, a Northwest Florida FORWARD Steering Committee, consisting of Apalachee Regional Planning Council, Florida’s Great Northwest, Gulf Power, University of West Florida Haas Center and West Florida Regional Planning Council, worked closely with a national consultant, TIP Strategies, to hold workshops, meetings and one-on-one interviews across Northwest Florida.
More than 860 business, government, educational and community leaders provided their insights to identify the region’s most promising opportunities for transformative economic growth. The Haas Center conducted research and provided a technical report and profiles of each county, which served as a strong foundation for the regional effort. Together, the region developed the Northwest Florida FORWARD Strategic Plan.
Northwest Florida FORWARD should not be viewed as a static document, but as one that invites revisions and amendments as conditions change. For this reason, regional stakeholders are taking a dynamic approach to implementation—one that revisits this plan on a regular basis to ascertain progress and to prioritize strategies and actions as needed.
For the implementation phase, the Steering Committee developed Northwest Florida FORWARD Councils to ensure the strategy becomes a reality. There are five Councils representing the key focus areas for economic vitality and growth for the region: Talent, Business Vitality, Infrastructure, Entrepreneurship & Innovation and Quality of Place. The Councils are led and run by volunteer leaders from across the region and they continue to work hard and collaborate across the region to move Northwest Florida foward.