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Florida's Big Bend Region

Big Bend

Urban renewal and business relocations

Government sector job cuts & high feed costs for dairy and poultry farmers

Big Bend

» Tallahassee's urban renewal efforts got a boost from Gaines Street development, city capital improvements and new dining and hospitality venues. All the activity helped keep unemployment at a relatively low 6.3%. Cascades Park, a $30-million project on 25 acres downtown, will open in September, featuring a 1,500-seat canopied amphitheater.

» Increases in education and health services jobs helped offset the loss of some 800 government-sector jobs in Tallahassee's four-county metropolitan statistical area. The area's economy is expected to grow less than 1% this year, says Julie Harrington, director of Florida State University's Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis.

»  Also helping the region: Robotics, energy and development of new materials, says Barney Bishop, CEO of a consulting firm and former CEO of Associated Industries of Florida. What the region needs now, says Bishop, is manufacturing production. “We have a lot of young entrepreneurs coming out of FSU, FAMU and TCC who can start that manufacturing enterprise. And when you get manufacturing, you get the supply chain.” Among promising research-spawned enterprises, says John Fraser, executive director of FSU's Office of Intellectual Property Development and Commercialization: Bing Energy, Prevacus, BioFront Technologies, BevShots, Sunnyland Solar and General Capacitor. “All are young, based on FSU technology, growing and adding employees.”

Business to Watch

» NanoVision: The company has a deal with FSU to design a machine to scale up the manufacture of BuckyPaper, a lightweight, super-strong material developed through FSU research, to give manufacturers larger pieces of material for commercial applications.

Leon Population: 285,689
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.12%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.08% 8.63% 37.01% 27.49% 10.80%
Per Capita Income: $37,970

MSA Dec. 2012 Dec. 2011 % Change Jobless Rate
Tallahassee 177,364 176,651 +0.4% 6.6%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2013 Sales 1-Year Change 2013 Price 1-Year Change
Tallahassee/Leon 2,396 +10% $163,500 +0.3%
Source: Florida Realtors

Hamilton/Suwannee/Madison Counties

» Hamilton Energy Resource Opportunities, a private company proposing to build a 70-megawatt solar farm on 450 acres, has signed an agreement with Progress Energy that permits electricity produced at the farm to be carried on the Progress grid. The project could create more than 200 construction and 25 permanent jobs, says managing director Jack Levine.

»  Austria-based Klausner Group announced plans to build Klausner Lumber One sawmill, a high-tech plant in Suwannee County that will create 700 construction jobs, 350 permanent jobs and inject $130 million into the local economy over three years.

» Madison County is seeing a small influx of new businesses and expansions, says Billy Washington, chairman of Madison County Development Council. Among them: Stahl-Meyer has begun processing and packaging hot dogs, employing 100; Annett Bus Lines is building a terminal along Interstate 10; and United Methodist Church has picked a site for a new children's home and camp.

Hamilton Population: 14,960
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.05%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.14% 5.96% 29.58% 33.80% 14.51%
Per Capita Income: $20,856

Suwannee Population: 43,292
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.21%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
19.19% 5.74% 22.25% 32.59% 20.23%
Per Capita Income: $30,429

Madison Population: 19,241
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): -0.11%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.06% 5.54% 25.88% 33.62% 16.91%
Per Capita Income: $28,559


Jefferson/Gadsden/Wakulla Counties

» Camilla Pecan Co. is building a processing facility, Harrell Nut Co., in Jefferson County, that will employ 50 in its first phase and 200 at full expansion, reports EDC Executive Director Julie Conley. The county contributed 10 acres for the project.

» Gadsden County is seeing business upticks at companies including Quincy Joist, and health care positions are available at Florida State Hospital, according to the regional WorkForce Plus office. The unemployment rate has dropped from 10.2% at end of 2011 to 8.6%.

» Groundbreaking could come this spring for the Wakulla Environmental Institute; the initial phase will consist of an administration center and first
set of classrooms on 158 acres. The Tallahassee Community College full-phase project is expected to create 950 direct and indirect jobs.

Jefferson Population: 14,987
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.48%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.92% 4.70% 22.83% 37.79% 18.76%
Per Capita Income: $31,994

Gadsden Population: 46,602
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.18%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
20.44% 5.87% 24.37% 34.37% 14.95%
Per Capita Income: $30,768

Wakulla Population: 32,513
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.65%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.04% 5.53% 27.04% 37.33% 12.05%
Per Capita Income: $31,888

Taylor/Gilchrist/Lafayette Counties

» Amtec Less-Lethal Systems is relocating its headquarters from Bull Shoals, Ark., to a site near Perry and plans to hire 100 workers within five years, beginning this month. The company makes munitions equipment and trains law enforcement personnel.

»  In Gilchrist County, Ice River Springs purchased and reopened a water bottling plant. There's also interest in building a wood pellet plant to produce energy, says county administrator Bobby Crosby Jr.

»  Lafayette County dairy and poultry farmers have seen little to no economic recovery primarily because of high feed costs, says Shawn Jackson, chairman of the volunteer County Development Authority Board. The new Suwannee River Rendezvous Resort and Campground, however, is attracting summer tourists as well as snowbirds.

Taylor Population: 22,964
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.53%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.60% 4.76% 26.49% 35.16% 17.00%
Per Capita Income: $28,164

Gilchrist Population: 17,709
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.28%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.67% 7.66% 23.06% 32.93% 18.69%
Per Capita Income: $25,575

Lafayette Population: 9,048
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.77%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.00% 5.85% 32.63% 31.51% 13.02%
Per Capita Income: $19,552