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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Plum Creek on the move in Columbia County
$190 million,  75 long term jobs on the docket

Allison Megrath, the Project Manager for Plumb Creek, Florida's largest private land owner, which owns about a tenth of Florida, explained to the Columbia County Commission last night that Plum Creek is on the move at the 550 acre RACEC site in Columbia County. Ms. Megrath, an expert in land use and zoning with eighteen years experience, is the project manager with Plum Creek.

The North Central RACEC (Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern) Project is a partnership between Plum Creek, the property owner, Columbia County, the state of Florida, and 13 adjacent counties. Ms. Megrath explained that the state established the RACEC program to allow funding to be directed to these sites and to provide state incentives to attract business opportunities and jobs to rural areas.

Ms. Megrath said that the rezoning of this site from agricultural to a mixed-use designation will allow the development of up to 8,000,000 sq ft of industrial development plus commercial and residential development.

"This is going to provide an opportunity for us to attract development to this site that will bring jobs to the region," she said.

The elusive rail spur

For those following this project a rail spur to the site has been a continuing thorn in the project's side, with some industries striking Lake City off their list of possible relocation sites because of the lack of a rail line.

In order to run a rail spur to the RACEC site, the spur would have to run through the Osceola National Forest. This would require special permit from the U.S. Forest Service and an act of Congress.

Ms. Megrath was straight up. She explained the situation this way: The County's Industrial Development Authority filed an application earlier this year. The application was denied by the U.S. Forest Service. The application was not in compliance with the code of federal regulations.

A rail spur, which was one of the driving forces in the creation of this RACEC site, has turned out and continues to be a distant possibility. Gov. Scott has intervened on behalf of the state.

Ms. Megrath explained, "We have another industry that has approached us that is not currently located in Florida. The state is putting together an incentive package to induce them to come to Florida."

Ms. Megrath continued, "The project would not be dependent on a rail spur and would generate about a $140 million capital investment. It would create about 350 construction jobs and about 50 long-term jobs at the site. The average wage is about $50,000. With that company another company is looking to come to the site, which would generate another $50 million capital improvement and another 25 to 30 jobs."

Ms. Megrath mentioned that both companies have requested confidentiality agreements.

Ms. Megrath told everybody to keep their fingers crossed.

She concluded her presentation by asking if there were any questions. There were none

Then she told the Board that she had left presentation packets for the County Commissioners with the clerk. None of the Commissioners picked one up on the way out of the door. 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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