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A Coast Guard helicopter lands at the airport. 
PHOTOS BY SHANNA FORTIER
Palm Coast Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011 7 years ago

CLEARING THE HURDLES

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by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

County Administrator Craig Coffey’s plan includes increasing Enterprise Flagler’s role and funding incentives.

Palm Coast has its plan; County Commissioner Milissa Holland unveiled her plan; and now the county has its own plan for economic development.
 

County Administrator Craig Coffey said Jan. 5, in a workshop with the County Commission, that the county faces four hurdles to economic development.
 

The four hurdles are 1) lack of marketing efforts, 2) financing difficulties, 3) cost of land and 4) the time it takes to locate to Flagler County.
 

Here are Coffey’s three interwoven strategies to help solve those problems:

Solution 1: Marketing
Coffey said the county needs to hire a professional marketing firm to develop a cohesive, sustained program to market the county.
 

“I’m smart enough to know that we aren’t marketing and have no outside presence,” Coffey explained at the Jan. 5 workshop.
 

Some of Coffey’s ideas for marketing strategies are identifying the county’s assets and then exploiting them.
 

As an example, Coffey explains how the county produces potatoes; however, there is no plant to produce potato chips. Though Coffey realizes that might not be the answer, it could be something similar.
 

Years ago, Coffey said, the county focused on bringing in a sub-supplier in conjunction with Sea Ray Boats. Because Sea Ray’s plant produces boats here, the county attempted to bring in a cloth manufacturer for the boats.
 

Coffey explains in his plan: “The sub-suppliers typically have a location that relates to raw material, cheap labor or the market locations for their products. With the limited manufacturers we have, there may be a few potential companies that might be candidates for relocation.”

Solution 2: Organization
Organization, according to Coffey, will be a key component to economic development, and that’s where Enterprise Flagler comes in. Coffey details in his plan the obstacles Enterprise Flagler has had to overcome during the past three years, saying that if the county is serious about economic development, “You have to be serious about hiring professional staff.”
 

In an interview following the workshop, Coffey explained the difficulties Enterprise Flagler has had to endure, including budget cuts. In the past three years, the public/private organization’s funding went from $155,000 to about $125,000 and now is around $93,000. Additionally, the staff went from three persons to two.
 

“We’ve lowered funding and cut personnel and asked them to create jobs,” Coffey said. “In the worst economic times, we’ve cut the resources they’ve had available to them, but (we) expect miracles out of them.”
 

Also at the workshop, Holland cited a survey saying there are Enterprise Flagler board members, as well as members of the public, who don’t know what the organization does. Holland said that situation needs to be addressed. Later in the workshop, she said she doesn’t think it’s fair to make job creation the sole responsibility of Enterprise Flagler.
 

“Not only has … economic development not been funded adequately, but we haven’t given any clear direction,” Holland said.

Solution 3: Incentives
Coffey said incentives are a necessity if the county wants to compete when vying for companies to locate here.
 

“It’s leveling the playing field,” Coffey said. “If you’re lacking in an area, you can make up for that (in incentives).”
 

The county will have about $900,000 left in incentive monies after this year, Coffey said at the workshop, adding that it’s not a renewable resource, and it can evaporate quickly. He pointed out that the county’s quality of life might be second-to-none in Northeast Florida or the entire state, and if it can meet the business needs of a company through incentives, he can win that battle.
 

Coffey also supports a model to help small businesses in the early stages of their development, through incubators.
 

“These incubators will typically not be manufacturing and assembly, but will be more office-space orientated,” the plan states. “These startups/ relocations may need high-speed Internet, a shared receptionist, business counseling and assistance. The program structure for an incubator is to allow for short stays transitioning into a permanent location.”

 

FUNDING OPTIONS

County Administrator Craig Coffey proposed various options for funding the county’s economic development plan. More discussion of funding sources will take place at the Jan. 31 intergovernmental meeting.
 

Coffey said if the board is to boost its economic effort, it has four options:
 

1) Increase property taxes as part of the regular budget process or through a referendum, generating about $1.7 million annually;
 

2) Raise the infrastructure half-cent sales tax by a referendum, to pay strictly for infrastructure, generating about $3.8 million;
 

3) Negotiate electric franchise charges for the county and Palm Coast with an agreement with Florida Power and Light, generating about $1 million per year; and
 

4) Increase the sales tax by a half cent by supermajority or a referendum, generating about $3.8 million per year.
 

Coffey favors a sales tax to support economic development. If others support it, too, he proposed 60% of the funds should be given to the municipalities for their individual efforts, and 40% should be used to fund marketing, organization and incentives for the county as a whole. Here is the proposal:

Entity                 Funding
Palm Coast        $1,124,531
Flagler BOCC    $1,021,800
Flagler Beach    $82,074
Bunnell              $39,921
Beverly Beach   $7,793
Marineland        $0
TOTAL               $2,276,119

Economic task                      Funding
Marketing (team), 12.5%        $473,750
Organization (team), 12.5%   $473,750
Incentives (team), 15%          $568,950

 

DEVELOPING THE AIRPORT

The county has four hurdles to economic development, and County Administrator Craig Coffey proposed three solutions. In addition, each municipality’s own economic development plan could be partly funded by a half-cent sales tax (See Box, Page 1). Coffey proposes the county spend a portion of its money on infrastructure, including development of the airport.
 

Coffey states in the plan that this has been contemplated for nearly 20 years as part of the county’s master airport plans, dating back to 1987:
 

“The infrastructure, once installed, will create immediate benefits, but will provide public benefits for decades. From an overall standpoint, if we are successful in economic development at the county, a quality local airport will be an important requirement for corporate planes and individual recreational flyers.”

 

COMMISSIONERS TARGET HOLLAND

Last month, County Commissioner Milissa Holland unveiled a plan for economic development. Then, at a workshop Jan. 5, the rest of the county commissioners indicated they felt she should have involved them in the process.
 

“I appreciate what you do and that you did it,” Commissioner George Hanns said. “ … I didn’t know what to think. I thought it was corny, actually.”
 

Holland said the Sunshine Law prohibited her from sitting down with each commissioner individually, but Hanns said it would have been nice if Holland had come to the board in some fashion.
 

“You don’t agree that you shouldn’t just go on your own and do things?” Hanns said. “There was a lot of work involved, and I’m sure staff was involved, as well.”
 

Holland said the discussion should be on the solutions to the economic problems the county faces.
 

“I’m not going to apologize for doing my job,” Holland said. “I’m never going to apologize for doing my job. I feel solutions need to be offered.”

 

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