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May 23, 2018

Going for the Green- Northwest- Oct. 2002

Joan Hughes | 10/1/2002
Jefferson County faced losing a valuable resource in 1998 when the University of Florida's North Florida Research and Education Center announced it was closing its Monticello site. Community leaders got together to decide how to fill the void. The result: The Green Industries Institute of Professional Development, a new environmental horticulture educational program.

A joint venture of North Florida Community College, UF and Florida A&M, Green Industries started small in 2001. Its first program -- a dual-enrollment vocational horticulture course at a local high school -- drew nine students in the fall of 2001. This fall, 91 are on the roster.

After offering a limited number of courses in the spring and summer, the non-profit institute opened full time in August. Students attending the 115-acre Monticello campus, which UF owns, can pursue certificate programs applicable toward degrees such as an associate of science in landscape technology. Most classes meet once a week to accommodate working students. Industry professionals can earn continuing education units at monthly "First Friday Seminars."

Executive Director Sam Hand, a former FAMU landscape design professor, is planning to make Green Industries a major player in Florida's $9.9-billion horticulture, arboriculture and landscape industry by offering education and training opportunities for the industry's 188,000 employees.

"Our mission," says Hand, "is to professionalize the industry by offering the proper training. I want Green Industries to be a vehicle for transforming the industry, developing it to its highest potential."

The institute's facilities include four classrooms, a conference center and extensive outdoor lab areas -- greenhouses, an arboretum, wetlands and woodlands.

Green Industries is counting on the more than 80 educators, industry representatives and legislators who sit on steering and advisory committees to ensure the institute keeps up with changing industry needs. In the year ahead, the school is planning to build a permanent landscape contractor training and testing facility and begin offering an online curriculum.

"Eventually, we plan to deliver the major portion of the content of our programs on the web. We'll have short-term intensive training sessions on campus for the hands-on instruction," says Assistant Director Gale Allbritton.

The institute is also pursuing training programs with Universal Studios, Disney and the Caribbean Sandals and Beaches resorts.

Hand hopes to wean the institute from state and federal financial support by providing fees for services, especially professional development courses. "These niche areas, which are high demand and require special training, we will charge accordingly. That's where we can roll some real revenue back into the program."


Defuniak Springs -- The city has approved annexing 1,100 acres in anticipation of development by Eagle Group. The Atlanta-based developer is buying 1,400 acres for a planned retirement community at the intersection of I-10 and Highway 331. Plans for the community, Eagle Group's first in the Panhandle, include 1,500 single-family homes, 36 holes of golf and commercial development.

Dustin -- A $7-million expansion project will double the size of Resort Interiors facilities to 56,000 square feet. The $10-million company plans to add 30 employees.

Escambia County -- Suspended Escambia County Commissioner Mike Bass pleaded no contest in an agreement reached with the state to two misdemeanor Sunshine Law violations. In exchange, the state has dropped felony charges of bribery, racketeering and money laundering.

Escambia County commissioners have approved construction of a $12.5-million public safety facility, a $28-million downtown courthouse complex and a $10-million office park. The county is using sales tax revenue and savings on a refinanced bond issue to fund the projects. Commissioners also voted to sell the Stalnaker Mazda site and the former soccer complex on U.S. 29, properties the county bought for $6.2 million earlier this year in deals that led to Gov. Jeb Bush's removal of four commissioners.

Jackson County -- A jury awarded Anderson Columbia $2.3 million in its breach-of-contract suit against the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT had refused the Lake City-based construction company payments for unforeseen problems in a Jackson County road project, problems Anderson Columbia claimed should have been accounted for in the original contract.

Leon County-- In an effort to head off part of the 2,572-home Fallschase development, Leon County has applied for a $6.6-million Florida Communities Trust grant, which it would match, to buy the dry upper Lake Lafayette lake bed. County officials contend the developer's plans to build 1,220 homes on 235 acres on the existing flood plain violate land-use ordinances.

Milton -- Responding to the county's 14% annual growth rate, Santa Rosa Medical Center is building a 40,000-sq.-ft. medical office building next to the hospital. The $6.5-million project will provide facilities for 15 to 20 physicians employing up to 60 support staff. The Santa Rosa Medical Center is also undergoing a $3-million renovation.

Pensacola -- General Electric is spending $17 million to retool its Pensacola plant, which employs 215. Work is scheduled to be complete by year's end.

Tallahassee -- FedEx Ground has opened a 24,650-sq.-ft. facility in Hamilton Park. The terminal, which supports 50 employees, provides pickup and delivery services in the Big Bend area of Florida and in southwest Georgia.

Economic Development

LIBERTY COUNTY -- Somewhat quietly, a big, multimillion-dollar Georgia-Pacific plant is about to open here in Florida's smallest county. After years of effort, the regional development group Opportunity Florida lured the company, which is building the quarter-mile-long plant that will employ more than 100 workers making oriented strand board, a plywood substitute.

In June, the Florida Economic Development Council honored Opportunity Florida with its 2002 Deal-of-the-Year award for the deal.

"I can't think of the last time we had an event this big," says Richard Williams, executive director of Opportunity Florida.

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