The economic landscape is being compared to a game of chess this week in Sandestin at Gulf Power’s annual Economic Symposium with more than 550 business and community leaders from all over the region and state focused on Northwest Florida’s future.

This is the company’s 18th year to host a symposium for the region — a highly anticipated event focusing on the region’s economy.

This year’s theme, Game Plan for the Future … What’s Your Next Move?, invited speakers to discuss thought-provoking and strategic topics from Preparing Workers for our Changing Economy to reviewing Economic Optimism for 2015.

Gulf Power President and CEO Stan Connally kicked off the first day of the symposium by asking the audience, “What’s your next move?” — as a business, as a region, as a state — to grow the local economy.

“As leaders, are we making the right decisions on the next moves to grow Northwest Florida?” Connally asked the attendees.

Peter Sheahan, CEO of ChangeLabs, and author of “Fl!p,” energetically talked to the crowd about how to plan for the future. “Creating the future requires questioning the things we know,” he said. “You can’t mold the future to fit your current reality. It’s the other way around.

“People who are really good with a hammer think everything is a nail,” Sheahan added, as he discussed what does and doesn’t work in today’s business. “It’s word of mouse, not word of mouth with social media today.”

Twenty-four speakers and panelists are scheduled to speak over the two-day symposium including Nicholas T. Pinchuk, chairman and CEO of Snap-on Incorporated; Travis H. Brown, president & co-founder of Pelopidas, LLC, and author of “How Money Walks;” Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope; and Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Attendees and speakers have been invited to tweet during the event at #NWFLNextMove on Twitter, which took the level of networking among guests to the next level.

Planning this dynamic event takes months of effort and coordination by Gulf Power’s Community and Economic Development team.

“This is a huge event not only for Gulf Power, but for the entire region,” said Sandy Sims, Community Development manager. “Our attendees have high expectations, and each year we challenge ourselves to do better than the previous year.”

The team works to develop the theme, schedule dynamic speakers who will touch on hot topics that directly affect Northwest Florida and all the logistics of hosting almost 600 people for two days.

“We have several measures of success for the symposium,” Sims said, “but our main goal for the event is for business and community leaders who attend to walk away with concrete ideas of how they will move forward in their own business or organization and ultimately make a positive impact on our economy.”