Research: Studying Florida- Northeast- March 2003
FT: Why was the Florida Center established?
Herbert: To assist the citizens of Florida and their elected officials in identifying and assessing the potential impact of pursuing alternative responses to critical needs. It does this through gaining a better understanding of the evolving characteristics of the state, as well as potential or current challenges confronting Florida and its communities.
FT: What makes it unique among research institutions in the state?
Herbert: There are no other public policy research units in Florida that have the combination of data-driven research tools used by the center: A comprehensive data warehouse, a geographic information systems laboratory, a public opinion research laboratory and a multidisciplinary team of research fellows.
FT: What is the most startling piece of research to come out of the center to date?
Herbert: Two of our public opinion surveys revealed that public education is, without question, the most important public policy issue in the state. I was surprised that both surveys indicated that respondents were willing to pay higher taxes if needed to assure higher quality public education.
FT: The center bills itself as a "leadership development organization." How is it building leaders?
Herbert: First through technical assistance provided to public officials that assists them in fulfilling their leadership responsibilities. Second, through formal training programs for elected and senior-level executives in the public, not-for-profit and private sectors. Currently, our most significant leadership development effort is the Florida Police Corps. In collaboration with the Department of Justice and participating local law enforcement agencies, we are training a strong cadre of new police officers with college degrees. They will not only be community-oriented, but many will become leaders in their agencies over the next two decades.
FT: What is the most important economic trend facing the state?
Herbert: The state has not focused enough attention on economic diversification. The state's economic base, as reflected in the gross state product, is becoming increasingly more concentrated in four sectors: Services; finance, insurance and real estate; government; and retail. This makes our economy and tax base far too vulnerable during periods of financial uncertainty and limits the potential for expanding the pool of higher-paying jobs for Florida citizens.
IN THE NEWS
Alachua -- City commissioners have approved a one-year moratorium on most new construction, saying planners need time to revise land-use regulations. One notable exception to the ban: Wal-Mart's proposed warehouse.
Gainesville -- Gainesville Regional Airport has established a $650,000 "ticket trust" it hopes will persuade Continental Airlines to start twice-daily flights to the airline's Newark, N.J., hub. The money, pledged by local businesses, would be used to buy unsold seats during the initial year of service. An airline spokesman says the company needs to see "clear profit potential" before it signs on. A similar deal persuaded AirTran to begin service in Tallahassee.
Jacksonville -- JaxPort welcomes a new Brazilian import -- the Cross Lander 244. An estimated 6,000 of the turbo diesel-powered SUVs will be shipped to Jacksonville this year for delivery to dealerships throughout the U.S.
An investment group that includes Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell plans to open 28 Whataburger restaurants in northeast Florida -- the largest franchise agreement in the Corpus Christi, Texas-based chain's 53-year history.
A Texas company has introduced a wireless broadband service that offers high-speed internet access to customers inside the I-295 corridor. Clearwire is marketing its radio signal service to people who don't have access to cable modems or digital subscriber lines.
With city support, a local development group plans to build the first homes in more than 50 years in the LaVilla neighborhood. LaVilla Square Associates will use a $320,000 grant from the Downtown Development Authority to build 34 town houses on two blocks.
Construction of the state's first proton beam cancer treatment facility at Shands hospital begins next month. The $92-million facility will help doctors target tumors in children and cancers of the prostate, brain, eyes and head and neck.
A program that assigns educators to Duval County's lowest-achieving schools ["Hard Lessons," May 2002, FloridaTrend.com] is losing teachers at triple the average rate. Sixteen of the 172 participants in the Creating Opportunities that Result in Excellence (CORE) initiative have resigned or been fired during the program's first year.
Keystone Heights -- Recent renovations to the Keystone Airpark include a $150,000 fuel center and a $274,000 office suite and pilots' lounge. Local officials hope the upgrades will lead to more air traffic, specifically corporate planes.
Lake City -- Enrollment at Lake City Community College is up 12% to 2,280.
Northeast Florida -- The number of single-family building permits issued last year in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns counties rose to a record 10,600, a 9% increase from 2001, according to the Northeast Florida Builders Association.
Nearly 10,000 high school seniors in Nassau, Duval, Clay, St. Johns, Baker and Putnam counties have taken an assessment test aimed at measuring their job market skills. Results from the Keys2Work test are being shared with area businesses looking to recruit local high school grads.
Palatka -- The historic Florida Furniture Industries plant on River Street and 43 acres of adjacent riverfront property are being packaged for sale at $3.15 million. The plant closed in December.
Pomona Park -- Voters in April's municipal election may abolish the 109-year-old town. Government opponents, who launched a petition drive, say the move would eliminate local taxes without reducing essential services. Town supporters say Putnam County would not be able to maintain services at current levels.
St. Augustine -- A 60-year-old oak tree no longer stands in the way of Flagler College's proposed $3.5-million freshman dormitory. City officials ruled the college can remove the nearly 40-inch-thick tree to make way for the facility but denied a separate request for off-site parking.
JACKSONVILLE -- Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu has joined the faculty of the University of North Florida as a scholar-in-residence for the spring semester. The anti-apartheid activist will teach three classes focusing on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation process.