Gulf Power’s Rick Byars, Economic Development & Major Accounts general manager, has been named as one of Consultant Connect’s North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers for 2018.

The annual list is designed to acknowledge the hard work of the top leaders in this field and elevate the conversation around economic development and job creation, according to Ron Kitchens, managing partner of Consultant Connect.

“Each of the leaders represented on this year’s list are beyond deserving of this recognition for their efforts in building our communities,” Kitchens stated.

Being recognized by a national organization as one of 50 top economic leaders, Byars said, reveals he and his team are doing the right things to be successful.

“I am humbled and honored that my peers and the industry have recognized our team’s accomplishments in economic development,” he said. “We’re having much success in Northwest Florida in diversifying the economy. The bottom line is that when the local economy is strong, our communities are strong, and Gulf Power is strong.”

Rick Byars, third from left, joins community leaders and state and local officials at the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport in Panama City Beach to welcome the GKN Aerospace manufacturing facility at VentureCrossings Enterprise Center.

Under Byars’ leadership, Gulf Power’s economic development team:

  • Developed the first certified site program in Florida, Florida First Sites. This program helps develop project ready sites to encourage businesses to expand and relocate to our region. A Florida First Site was the key reason Panama City economic developers were successful in attracting the global engineering business, GKN Aerospace to Northwest Florida community.
  • Supports economic development partners including Enterprise Florida, Florida’s Great Northwest, Opportunity Florida, Bay EDA, EDC of Okaloosa County, FloridaWest, Santa Rosa EDC, Walton County EDC, and Jackson County Chamber.
  • Actively markets Northwest Florida throughout the international and national business community to develop a pipeline of new business leads.
  • Helps develop the total talent solutions for new and expanding industries.
  • Actively promote and develop the exiting military as part of the talent solution.
  • Supports academic and career training for K-12 and post-secondary to help respond to the needs of new and expanding businesses.
  • Host the Gulf Power Economic Symposium. This annual meeting draws 650 business and public leaders together to discuss the important business topics for our region.

Consultant Connect’s goal is to lift up this industry by recognizing remarkable economic developers for the entire economic development community to learn from. Each recipient will receive their award at Consultant Connect’s ECONOMIX event in Nashville this December.