Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year
People who made an impact in business, economy, science, environment, government, education, sports, philanthropy, media and our fallen soldiers.
» Marion County
Lucienne Gaufillet, who had worked for developers for more than 10 years, aims to create jobs and long-term sustainability. [Photo: Jeffrey Camp]
That's just what County Administrator Lee A. Niblock was looking for as he put together a team to "immediately boost the economy and create jobs and long-term sustainability." County officials acknowledge that their over-reliance on the housing industry left Ocala and Marion County worse off than surrounding counties in the recession. Unemployment hit 13% in the wake of major corporate shutdowns, from cabinet maker Merillat Industries to mortgage giant Taylor, Bean & Whitaker. Over the course of the year, the county lost 1,300 jobs in manufacturing alone, another 1,100 in retail and another 1,000 in financial services.
"I think what got me here is the county's commitment to do things differently and not follow the same path they followed in the past," Gaufillet says. "There is a fearlessness that we have to think hard about how to do things and not be afraid of change."
By year's end, that new and urgent approach had begun to pay off. Working closely with Ocala city government, the EDC, the workforce board, community services and state agencies like the Department of Children & Families, Gaufillet and her colleagues have come up with creative new ways to generate jobs. They dug up a rarely used subsection of the federal stimulus bill to create a subsidized employment program, similar to the WPA projects of the 1930s. Workforce Connection finds unemployed workers, the county puts them in needed temporary positions from parks designers to plumbers, and the Department of Children & Families pays 80% of their salaries with federal stimulus funds. The project has become a pilot for the state.
"We are constantly poring through research, looking at what other parts of the country are doing and going over and over how to attract new opportunities," Gaufillet says. "We're definitely on a new path. Hopefully it has a more sustainable outcome."
— Cynthia Barnett