The town of White Springs has been selected as one of only four communities in the state to participate in the first year of the Competitive Florida Partnership Program under the auspices of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).
“Based on our assessment of assets and challenges, and the vision we have for the town of White Springs, out of all the communities in the state of Florida, White Springs was selected to participate as one of the four cities in this pilot program,” said White Springs Mayor Helen Miller.
As a pilot community, White Springs will be offered (at a minimum) the following support package from the DEO:
- A DEO team to meet with town staff to facilitate the process.
- $35,000 in technical assistance grant funding to provide contractual support for asset mapping developing or updating an economic development strategy and resource matching to implement actions.
- $5,000 in technical assistance grant funding to create a case study that details the community’s experience with Competitive Florida, including challenges and recommendations for improvement in the future.
- Travel funding to support up to two members of the community to attend a community collaboration meeting where the four pilots can share their experiences and learn from each other.
On Monday, Jan. 6, the DEO officially announced via a press release the four rural communities participating in the pilot program; the city of Port St. Joe, the city of Newberry, the city of White Springs, and Desoto County.
Governor Rick Scott said, “The Competitive Florida Partnership provides our rural communities with the tools they need to work together and encourage economic development throughout the state.”
All four communities, Scott said, should be congratulated for being the first communities to participate in the program and for their commitment to creating jobs and opportunities for Florida families.
The Competitive Florida Partnership will help these rural communities value and market local assets and challenge them to set realistic goals for advancing their economic development vision. The four participating communities will design and develop innovative strategies that promote partnerships, community design, and a viable local economy.
“Our goal is to help create an opportunity economy in Florida, in which every community can offer jobs for the next generation,” said Jesse Panuccio, Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “Competitive Florida will help rural communities map their strengths and identify what makes them distinctive. DEO understands there is power in collaboration, and this program will build an active network of passionate community leaders who share ideas and learn from each other’s experiences.”
Asset-based economic development is a bottom-up approach that focuses on developing and promoting existing local resources to strengthen the local economy. This approach focuses on a rural community’s tangible and intangible assets combined with economic advantages and how these can be leveraged into sustainable economic growth and prosperity. Assets in a community may include but are not limited to: individuals and human capital; associations and voluntary networks; political advocates; historical and cultural resources; natural landscapes (including renewable and nonrenewable material resources); financial assets; the built environment including transportation networks, communications facilities, utilities, public facilitates and commercial buildings; institutions such as schools, hospitals and government agencies. DEO will work with the selected rural communities to identify and market these assets and facilitate promotional opportunities to bring economic development to their community.
The program is designed to help communities value their assets and challenge them to set realistic goals for advancing their economic development vision.
“What this provides to the town is technical and financial assistance to begin the implementation of a revitalization plan for the town of White Springs, which is a really good thing,” said Miller.
This program, she said, is coming at an opportune time, as the town has just taken over the lease of the tourism center.
“We can use these next 12 months in terms of developing a management plan which deals with the state properties as well as the private sector proposals in our plan and get the help of professionals from the DEO to help us move forward,” said Miller.
The White Springs Town Council at their December meeting voted unanimously to accept the proposal from the DEO to participate in the Competitive Florida Partnership Program.
“This is a golden opportunity,” said Vice Mayor Walter McKenzie.
“We are currently working with DEO staff to develop the agenda for our first partners’ meeting, which is scheduled for February 1,” said Miller. “We are excited about DEO support in prioritizing and implementing our economic revitalization plans based on cultural heritage and eco-tourism.”