Posted: November 16, 2020

NICEVILLE, FL – Florida’s Great Northwest (FGNW), the regional economic development organization for the 12 counties in the Florida Panhandle, celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 16th at Northwest Florida State College. The celebration was attended by FGNW investors and community leaders throughout Northwest Florida to commemorate the organization’s 20 years of regional collaboration and to unveil the vision for the future growth and diversification of Northwest Florida.

“When you have 65 percent of alliances across the country fail, but you have one that has survived and thrived for 20 years, that’s something to celebrate,” said Neal Wade, one of FGNW’s founding fathers. 

In the early 1990s, Bob Cordes, one of the organization’s other founding fathers and former economic development director with Gulf Power, worked with several counties in the region to develop a loosely knit group called the Northwest Florida Economic Development Coalition. While they worked well together and had some successes, he said that without a formal entity focusing on regional economic development every day, the momentum was difficult to maintain.

Meanwhile, later that same decade, Neal Wade was brought in from Alabama to serve as the senior vice president of economic development for the St. Joe Company. He was charged with elevating the perceptions of the region to enrich life and increase the customer base in Northwest Florida through quality economic growth. On November 16, 2000, through the leadership, partnership and resources of Gulf Power, PowerSouth and the St. Joe Company, FGNW was established.

Throughout FGNW’s history, the organization has fostered coopetition across the region to strengthen and diversify Northwest Florida’s economy. Families have benefited from thousands of new high-quality jobs in targeted sectors across the region and a $24 million increase in the regional GDP.

“Thank you to FGNW’s investors for your commitment in this organization over the past 20 years,” said Scarlett Phaneuf, FGNW Chair. “It’s great to reflect on our past accomplishments since the beginning of our organization because it’s not by coincidence and it doesn’t happen without committed leaders.”

“We’ve come a long way as an organization and a region since the year 2000,” said Jennifer Conoley, President & CEO of FGNW. “I’m grateful to the visionary leaders who devoted precious resources over the past 20 years to regional economic development. Most importantly, our future is bright, and we are setup for exceptional success over the next 20 years.”

About Florida’s Great Northwest, Inc.

Florida’s Great Northwest is the regional economic development organization representing the 12 counties in the Florida Panhandle: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Washington. The organization promotes Northwest Florida for economic growth and diversification, advocates for economic development issues that affect the region, and collaborates to improve the region’s business competitiveness. Learn more at and follow us at @FGNW.



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