Suwannee Democrat

July 5, 2013

Guest column: Let’s GROW Suwannee!

Dennis Cason, President, Suwannee County Economic Alliance
Suwannee Democrat

Live Oak — Congratulations! Last week Suwannee County was recognized twice at the Florida Economic Development Council (FEDC) Conference in Orlando. Selected as the recipient of the Richard L. McLaughlin Volunteer of the Year Award for our 15 county North Central region was our own John Martz! The annual award honors volunteer service to the local community and state in supporting economic development initiatives. John is the chairman of our Suwannee County Council for Progress board and has been involved in economic development activities since arriving in Suwannee County in 2005 to take the position of executive vice president and CEO of Suwannee Valley Electric. We appreciate you, John!  

The second honor was to have the Klausner Project chosen as the Florida Regional Project of the Year! This award recognizes “outstanding achievement in the location of a project in the state of Florida” and points to the hard work and cooperative effort among all involved in working with the project and applauds Suwannee County and our region. It was stated that this is a “signature award for Klausner, Suwannee County, the North Florida Economic Development Partnership (NFEDP), and the entire region”.

Another highlight for me was to be able to participate in a panel discussion with a representative from Enterprise Florida, a representative from our region, and Thomas Mende of Klausner. The breakout session, entitled “Working With International Prospects” presented information on resources available to attract international companies as well as an overview of our work in recruiting Klausner Lumber One.   

The FEDC conference is an annual event for economic development professionals, workforce, and community developers and partner organizations to aide in professional development.

Last month we told you about the Florida Rural Economic Development Study completed earlier this year by Boyette Strategic Advisors in cooperation with Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI). The study identified assets and opportunities of Rural Florida as well as challenging issues and then made strategic recommendations to address the issues and build upon the opportunities. These recommendations are meant to ensure success in the attraction and retention of business/industry and to provide direction for economic development efforts in Rural Florida over the next five years.  

Here are a few of the suggestions from the study that are applicable to our own 15 county Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern. Many of the suggestions are to be accomplished at the state level. These include improvement in the Rural Economic Development Structure. An organizational change suggested was to rename the Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern to something that gives a more positive concept! Leadership Development ideas include programs by EFI and others to build local leadership capacity with both elected officials and economic development professionals. Another task for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is to work with the Florida Legislature to effect improvements in Incentives and Funding requirements for rural areas and also to keep incentives in line with neighboring competitive states.
Many of the suggestions have to do with catalyst sites. Suggestions are made for Marketing and Communications. Marketing by the state is part of the original plan for Catalyst Sites. New suggestions include creation of a detailed informational website exclusively about catalyst sites, and using email blasts and newsletters to market to site location consultants. Suggestions for local action include enhancing the overall appearance of the Catalyst Site and adding signage at the site and along Interstate 10.

The Suwannee County Development Authority and the Council for Progress have already discussed this as well as the need for the establishment of a detailed master plan for the site.

The Rural Economic Development Study contains many additional ideas and plans. Again, I will be happy to email a copy to you if you are interested.

Let’s GROW Suwannee!