Florida has a remarkably diverse and robust economy, driven by the big six: tourism; agriculture; international trade; aerospace; life sciences and financial services.
Last year, for the first time, Florida’s gross domestic product topped $1 trillion. If it were a nation, it would have the 17th largest economy in the world.
Keeping a steady finger on the pulse of the Sunshine State’s economic vital signs is Florida Trend, one of the oldest and most respected business magazines in the nation.
For the past several years, St. Petersburg-based Trend has published the “Florida 500,” its list of the most influential business leaders in the state.
In choosing individuals for the list, the magazine’s editors use three simple criteria: 1) People they find particularly interesting; 2) Have a wide sphere of activity in the business world and their respective communities; and 3) Leaders who embody the growing diversity of Florida’s economy.
While there are many quantitative barometers to measure a region’s economic vitality, the caliber and number of business leaders the magazine selects for its Florida 500 is an excellent indicator.
So, how does Pensacola and Northwest Florida stack up against the major population centers of Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville?
Quite well, thank you.
Despite having only 6 percent of the state’s population, Northwest Florida has 48 business leaders on Trend’s recently published list, including eight from the Pensacola area.
By comparison Miami, with a metro population of 6.2 million – six times that of Northwest Florida – has 109 individuals on the list.
Equally impressive is the number of Pensacola business leaders on Trend’s highly selective “Living Legends” list.
Trend’s editors choose Living Legends based on how accomplished he or she is in all respects of their careers, and whether that person has cemented status as an all-time influential business leader in Florida.
To get a sense of the Legends’ prestige, here are a few names on the list you may recognize: Jimmy Buffett, Jack Nicklaus, Jeb Bush.
Given the highly selective nature of Living Legends – only 40 were named in 2020 – it is remarkable Pensacola has three leaders on that list this year. They are:
- Dr. James Andrews: founder and medical director of the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze and world-renowned orthopedic surgeon.
- Ken Ford, co-founder and CEO of the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, one of the nation’s foremost scientists in the field of artificial intelligence.
- Quint Studer: founder of the Studer Group who retired from the health-care consulting company to launch the Studer Family of Companies, which has become a major force in the redevelopment of downtown Pensacola.
And last year’s Living Legends list featured Pensacola’s Fred Levin, considered among the most prominent and successful trial attorneys in the U.S., and a leading philanthropist throughout the state.
Thanks to these four outstanding leaders and others throughout Northwest Florida, this region is in the midst of an economic renaissance.
Economic growth is driven largely by savvy, determined leaders who see investment opportunities, take risks, create jobs and care deeply about their communities and the quality of life for all citizens.
In that respect, as Pensacola’s representation in Florida Trend’s Living Legends list demonstrates, there is good reason to be optimistic about Pensacola’s very promising economic future.
Carlton Proctor is a former business writer and columnist for the Pensacola News Journal and regular contributor to Florida Trend magazine.