MILTON — The city of Milton recently contacted local entrepreneur Quint Studer and the Studer Community Institute to learn more about how they might be able to aid the redevelopment of Milton.
Studer agreed to meet with city officials and local business owners Nov. 30 at the Imogene Theatre.
"[Studer's] insight and vision resulted in unparalleled growth," Mayor Wesley Meiss said on a Facebook page he made for the event. "Studer will provide insight into how one revitalizes aging urban cores, stimulating economic activity and what’s important to a community."
City and county officials, along with various business owners, gathered at the theatre to hear about Studer’s experiences and his advice on making Milton the best town it can be.
"Sometimes we don’t know we’re in something special because we only see the negative," Studer said. "We live in a country where we tend to focus on what’s wrong instead of what’s right."
Studer commended Milton on the success of their high school. According to him, Escambia County has a poor graduation rate — approximately 70 percent. This is typically blamed on local poverty.
"Milton has as much poverty as anywhere in Escambia County, but you have a great high school because you have good leaders. Feel good about the advantage you have in the community."
According to Studer, the greatest assets a city can have are businesses that get revenue from outside the community but spend money within the community. Also, it’s vital to create a vibrant downtown.
To build an energetic downtown, one must program the community to bring and to desire certain things in the downtown area: retail and entertainment, office space and residential buildings. Studer said bringing residential buildings downtown provides security to entrepreneurs who have shops in the area.
Studer said the success of a city doesn’t happen overnight and takes a lot of effort.
"This thing is a long journey," Studer said. "If you don’t have the legs for a long journey, this isn’t going to work.
Milton also needs to slow traffic downtown, Studer said. No matter what happens with Highway 90, the traffic must be slowed down through the downtown area.
According to Studer, it’s important to remember "consent versus consensus:" one may not agree with a decision that is made, but it’s vital that everyone in the city works together to make the best out of any situation and do what’s best for the community.
"People against things are so much louder," Studer said. "Be loud if you’re for something … Act like every neighborhood is your neighborhood."
Following Studer’s speech, the audience had the opportunity to ask him questions regarding the city and its future. County Commissioner Sam Parker was among those who asked a question; he wanted to know how the county can find the best way to use the courthouse building once it is moved.
According to Studer, the best thing to do would be get the property appraised; get it appraised with the building, and if the building were to be torn down, to see the best way to use the space.
"If you wake up one day and you have a university downtown, you’re in Heaven," Studer said.
If Milton could get a campus of Pensacola State College or the University of West Florida put downtown, the community would thrive because universities attract entrepreneurs, he said.
Studer ended his speech by giving members of the community his email address and phone number, asking them to contact him if they need any help as a small business or have any questions.
"You have a lot going for you," he said. "Be patient."