Gulf Power Symposium Focuses on Panhandle Economy - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Gulf Power Symposium Focuses on Panhandle’s Economic Competitiveness

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Hundreds of Panhandle leaders gathered in Sandestin to discuss the economic competitive edge of Northwest Florida.

The 16th annual Gulf Power Economic Symposium is opening the floor to new solutions in keeping the Panhandle economically viable as we work ourselves away from recession.

But, many speakers focused in on the impassioned political climate. With a close Presidential election just around the corner, many of Monday's speakers focused on government action, specifically keying in on public policy decisions that will directly affect our economic competitive edge, right here in Northwest Florida.

"Now is the time I think for businesses and you as individuals to weigh in," said President and CEO of Gulf Power's parent company, Southern Company, Tom Fanning.

Speaking to a packed room of civic and business representatives,

Fanning stuck to our Nation's main energy forms. He looked towards the future of energy dependence.

"Let me assure you, nuclear must be a dominant solution as we move forward," he said.

Though he did not forget about what has worked in the past. Fanning called America the ‘Saudi Arabia' of coal production, with a 28% global reserves domination.

"Why then do we have national policy trying to kill coal in America? It doesn't make sense," said Fanning.

Other speakers also didn't shy away from voicing their own government policy opinions. Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, focused on the embittered water wars between states and Florida counties.

"We don't need water wars; we don't need south Florida pumping water from north Florida," said Putnam.

Not forgetting the dominant military force of Northwest Florida, Economist from the University of West Florida, Dr. Rick Harper, said its Congress who must work together in order to bolster the economic outlook for our area.

He said 43% of proposed sequestration cuts will affect defense spending, which threatens to lop off 2500 defense programs in January, unless Congress acts.

"If Congress can't get it together through the ‘lame duck' session, November, December or even January, or even into February. If that doesn't happen, then Northwest Florida is going to be in for a rough ride," said Harper.

It's a ride that already has some buckling in for the final face towards Election Day.

The Gulf Power Symposium will conclude Tuesday at the Sandestin Beach and Golf Resort.