IDA Rudderless • Web presence
a mess Valdosta GA pays attention to IDA's Norris
Columbia County, FL (posted
February 2, 2010, at 04:30)
For years, Columbia County's Industrial Development
Authority (IDA), an arm of the "good ole boys" of
Columbia County, operated in complete contravention of
Florida's Sunshine Laws. The IDA met in people's
homes and did the bidding of the wheeling and dealing of
"Mr. Columbia County," County Manager Dale Williams.
After Craig Womer lifted the veil of secrecy off the IDA
and blew their cover, they began meeting in a publicly
accessible building. Unfortunately, nothing much else
has changed over the years.
Like most agencies outside the jurisdiction of the
City of Lake City, the IDA is another public body that
does not feel that it is accountable to the public that
supports it and like the Authority in whose building it
meets (LSHA), does not feel like it should answer the
questions of the public.
While the County fathers
brag about Columbia County’s inland port, filling it
up with hot air, Cincinnati Ohio does something
about theirs. •
Valdosta Georgia is our direct competition •
During the January 6th IDA meeting your reporter, who
is also a resident and tax payer to the IDA, had four
questions to ask the IDA Board, which is appointed by
the County Commission. The IDA budget, raised wholly
from taxpayers' contributions, is about a half a million
dollars a year.
No answers here
Your reporter came to the lectern. The ensuing
conversation speaks for itself.
The Observer: I am
the owner, publisher and editor of the Columbia
County Observer. There are four items that I
have.... This letter that is from Com DuPree ... I’m
not exactly why this letter is dated December 22nd
and nobody got it before yesterday [Jan 5th]....
Maybe we can get an explanation about that when I
sit down.... Does this board have some sort of
unified utility plan?
IDA Board: Silence
That’s a question.
IDA Director Poole:
You’ve got comments. It’s not open for questions.
Nobody answers questions at this place?
It’s just listening...
The Observer: But
I have questions. How do you ask questions here?
Ms. Brown: Not
during the comment segment.
The Observer: When
do you ask a question?
Ms. Brown: You can
The Observer: You
can’t ask questions at the IDA?
Ms. Brown: No. At
this point we just need to listen to your comments.
The Observer: What
about any answers? That’s how I know how to
Vice Chair Suzanne Norris:
We’ll get you back answers.
The Observer: When
would that be?
Ms. Norris: By the
next board meeting.
Welcome to Columbia County.
The Observer: At
the last County Commission meeting, the county
approved a geological survey, in part, purportedly
based on what you have done. You know what you’ve
done; you haven’t done anything; and/or you’re not
talking. I haven’t figured out -- which one that is?
The IDA Board:
On his way back to his seat, your reporter asked long
time IDA watcher, Craig Womer, "Did you know these folks
don't answer questions?"
Mr. Womer answered, "That's news to me."
Contrary to Ms. Norris', "We'll get you back answers
by the next board meeting," the IDA has answered
The IDA Web Site – Just disgraceful
The IDA is the face of economic and industrial
development of Columbia County.
The IDA web presence is the face of Columbia County's
Economic Development to the whole world.
During the last IDA meeting Chairperson Brown asked
IDA Director, Jim Poole, "When will the web site be up?"
Mr. Poole didn't know and explained, "Our challenge
has been finding a host."
the meeting, IDA Board Vice Chair Norris, who is also
Mercantile Bank's "Market President" and a member of the
Lake City Community College Board of Directors told the
IDA that she wants to "bring in more progressive
employers." It wasn't clear what she meant by that and a
glance at the IDA economic development web site would be
sure to put the kibosh on those well intentioned plans.
Then Ms. Norris commented on the IDA web site: "We
all agree that it is better to have an under
construction sign and to let people know that we’re
working on it, than to have something that is not
current; that is not user friendly; it is better to let
people know that we are working on something. That is
the number one critical thing that we have to get done.
What are you going to put on it; you’re not going to
just throw trash on it -- garbage in garbage out. We
have to have something that is representative of
something that we are trying to do here."
for the residents and business of Columbia County, Ms.
Norris has not been giving her "personal attention" to
the IDA web site, for when you "Google" – Columbia
County Florida economic development – you get a half
updated, half accurate/inaccurate, half assed
Columbia County web site page, which still shows Jim
Poole as the director of the Lake City Chamber of
Commerce, a job which went away some time ago.
Norris also told the Board, "We want to make sure we are
aligning properly with communities that we are competing
Valdosta, GA is about sixty miles up the road
from Lake City and is clearly in competition with
Columbia County for industry. They know what Ms. Norris
is talking about and practice it. Look at the face they
present to the world. Also notice that while Columbia
County leadership is constantly dumbing down the county,
the leader of the
Industrial Development team in Valdosta has an MBA.
Ms. Norris also told the IDA, " Education is a
critical component ... Having an education system that
is perceived as meeting the needs of potential
employers, as well as the existing community, is
Six years running, Columbia County High School has
been a "D" school. Over 90% of the students enrolling in
Lake City Community College after graduating from
Columbia High need remediation.
At least Valdosta is paying attention to Bank
President and IDA Vice Chair, Suzanne Norris.