Economic yearbook 2009
Focusing on high-tech companies and nurturing UF spinoffs.
Dixie / Levy Counties
Along Florida’s nature coast, Levy and Dixie are looking to capture a “ripple effect” from major projects such as Progress Energy’s nuclear power plant planned for southern Levy. The plant’s education and training facilities could break ground as early as this summer, providing much-needed construction jobs. Also on the drawing board: The new Tri-County Hospital in Chiefland.
Person to Watch
» Amanda Douglas, the new executive director of the Nature Coast Business Development Council, is a Levy County local who went away to study at a seminary and trained as a missionary in Haiti before deciding there was no place she’d rather devote herself to than home. Douglas, 29, is also executive director of the Levy County Enterprise Zone Development Agency. She aims to help focus the Nature Coast on green-job creation and sustainability.
Bradford / Union Counties
Like some other small counties in Florida, Bradford and Union are pooling resources and messages during the economic downturn rather than competing against each another. For example, officials are encouraging residents and business owners to “shop within a 15-mile radius of where you live. Making sure the dollars we do have are spent locally is going to make a big difference,” says Dean Weaver of Watson Realty in Keystone Heights, chairman of the North Florida Regional Chamber of Commerce. Meanwhile, recent economic-development investments are paying off. The chamber’s conference center on U.S. 301 in Starke, owned by the county and paid for with tourist-development funds, has steady bookings throughout the rest of the year.
Person to Watch
» Town council President John Rimes in Worthington Springs points out that Union County has been spared the pain of the economic slowdown because it hardly has any industry to slow. Rimes has helped his town land four state grants: Three for city park upgrades and one for a runway extension at the municipal airport, the Flying Tiger. Now, he’s set his sights on helping the county lure some economic activity.