After a brutal summer of $4-a-gallon gas, job layoffs, foreclosures, inflation and business failures, finally there are a few rays of hope.
Last week local developers announced plans to start construction this fall on two new hotels on Pensacola Beach.
A new 206-room, $60 million Holiday Inn will be built by Julian MacQueen's Innisfree Hotels.
And Little Sabine Inc., backed by American Fidelity Life Insurance, said it will start construction on a 162-room, $50 million Hotel Indigo, also on Pensacola Beach.
Both hotels are expected to be ready for occupancy in the spring of 2010 and create a couple hundred new jobs.
Those 368 additional hotel rooms will push Pensacola Beach's total to 1,297, a 37 percent increase over the 946 hotel and motel rooms that existed just before Hurricane Ivan.
Of course, two new beach hotels for tourists do not a recovery make.
But it's encouraging to see savvy, successful developers bet more than $100 million that one is out there in the not-so-distant future.
And there's more capital investment in Pensacola's future on the way.
Mega-developer Simon Property Group, after more than a year's delay, has submitted plans to Escambia County for the complete renovation of University Mall.
Simon's plans call for an open-air "lifestyle center" with 13 new retail buildings to be built in between the existing Sears, JCPenney and Belk stores.
The Development Review Application was submitted to the county last month, and calls for the demolition of the existing mall, which has seen an exodus of retailers in recent months.
"We are working through the site plan items with Escambia County ... and it's our desire to begin demolition in early 2009," said Simon spokesman Les Morris.
Simon's next step, once the county's comments are addressed, will be obtaining a development order and then building permit.
Construction and expansion
Navy Federal, fast climbing the list of largest employers in the area, is moving forward with construction of Building 4 at its Heritage Oaks campus in Beulah.
The 265,000-square-foot office complex — larger than Gulf Power's headquarters building — will cost about $75 million and house more than 1,000 employees.
When all four buildings are complete, the credit union will employ more than 3,500.
And despite recent cutbacks in commercial air service, the city broke ground Friday on a scaled down expansion of Pensacola Regional Airport's main terminal.
All the above projects will come on line some time in 2010 or early 2011, and with them will come jobs, profits to the private sector and revenue to local governments.
Of course it's no sure thing the local economy will be in full recovery mode by then.
But money talks, and the above big-ticket projects do speak to confidence in Pensacola's future.