At an April 18 Panhandle Tiger Bay Club meeting, Studer Institute President and CEO Randy Hammer outlined his vision for the research and media conglomerate.
Pensacola, once a shining example of high-wage jobs and a competent workforce, has recently seen its citizens’ net earnings dip from 96 percent of the US average to just 80 percent. Add to that the fact that 63 percent of children in Escambia County are on the free and reduced meal plan at school and only 64 percent of high school students go on to attend college, and it seems like the city can only improve. With the high number of healthcare and military positions available in the area, Hammer and his staff find these numbers unacceptable.
“We live in a truly wonderful place,” said Hammer. “We have such great potential. Pensacola can become the next great American city, if only we can identify sectors of improvement and individuals who can make those things happen. In partnership with UWF’s Haas Center, we will research the health of our community’s government, schools, health systems, and more.”
The Studer Institute, funded by Quint and Rishy Studer for the foreseeable future, is tasked with looking at peer and aspirant cities in the Southeast and identifying ways in which Pensacola has fallen short and succeeded. Once this information is gathered (the first report is due as early as June), the Institute’s staff will distribute findings and find and support those who can make a difference.
“It would be arrogant of us to think we have the answers,” said Hammer, saying that the Institute will do more research and reporting than recommendations. “The answers lie within our community, within the people who work and go to school here. We want to identify and support those people.”
The Studer Institute will increase Pensacola’s attractiveness through a variety a good-news mediums, including print and online, which falls under the perview of Shannon Nickenson, former Pensacola News Journal columnist. The Institute also recently entered into a partnership with BLAB-TV. Former attorney Brian Hooper, one of the Institute’s staff, will lead lecture series, book readings and head up research.
Right now, the Institute’s focus is Pensacola, though in a couple years Hammer said they may scale their research and findings to be applicable to other similar cities. Hammer hopes that through increased awareness of city issues, more people will turn out to vote and affect policy changes.
“Only 20 percent of citizens vote,” said Hammer. “We could get so much more done if more people would show up.”
Another of the Institute’s focus will be to find the next great industry sector that Pensacola can rely on, as healthcare and military revenue continue to decrease.
“With some work and ambition, people will move here like they did in the 1960s and 1970s,” said Hammer. “Businesses will notice our talent and people will notice our increased quality of life and wages.”