NORTHWEST FLORIDA (WKRG) — Northwest Florida is booming according to area leaders who say economic development is on the rise.
From Pensacola to Fort Walton Beach, people are moving throughout the entire area.
In downtown Pensacola, former Mayor Ashton Hayward said the city came up with a plan over a decade ago. He says the plan was to narrow streets to make the area more urban and walkable.
One main focus was on Palafox Street, where Yvette Avara was one of the first businesses.
“Actually, there’s been a lot of growth, so many more businesses, restaurants, retail business and lots of different things that have been popping up,” Avara said.
With all the things to do downtown, residents say they notice a lot of foot traffic on any given night, but that’s not all they notice.
“I think what they’re doing now is wonderful for the community I just hope they find some more parking,” Longtime resident said.
Just across the Three Mile Bridge in Santa Rosa County, more people, means more people on the roads. Longtime residents say driving on Highway 98 is nothing like it was 20 years ago.
“If you’re going into Pensacola in the mornings and you’re going home in the afternoon, you’re just backed up for miles and if there’s an accident you’re just plain there,” Chuck Howard said.
In Okaloosa County, the average household income is up more than 50 percent over the past 20 years. County officials attribute that to the military and all the business it brings in. Officials also attribute the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport.
“Twenty years ago it was very hard,” Mike Buck said. “A lot of times you had to drive to Pensacola to get out of here and make conventions and flights.”
In Pensacola, city officials are looking at expanding the waterfront. Over in Santa Rosa and Okaloosa Counties, the Florida Department of Transportation is looking at expanding Highway 98.