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Economic Development Advisory Board: Long time Commissioner Ronald Williams takes over the helm

He will bring $100,000s of suggestions before The 5 in Feb

Com Ronald Williams
(File photo)

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Economic Development Advisory Board met yesterday morning for the first time in the New Year with long time Commissioner Ronald Williams at the helm. After almost an hour of discussions regarding site planning and spec buildings, Com Williams told the Board he would be bringing back their suggestions to the County Commission (The 5) for discussion during the year's first budget workshop on February 27th.

Shortly after the meeting got underway, County Economic Development Director, Jessie Quillen, told the Board, "New development opportunities are prevalent. It appears that there is a need we are not able to meet in the way of some type of a building. We keep getting requests. About 50% of all projects are asking for a building that we just don't have; that building being roughly defined as a 25 to 40 thousand square foot structure of some type. We've got to talk about – do we build a building and where do we build it?"

Chairman Williams told the Board he thought the County was losing opportunities for economic development by not having a spec building and shovel ready sites available. He asked the Board for its input.

The Board Weighed In

Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson gave his opinion. He said, "In regards to being shovel ready, I'm assuming that's what the objective is, when a prospect comes to the table they're ready to go - time is money. They don't want to hear that we got to do utilities or we got to do a road." "A spec building is an ideal scenario where you're going to force yourself to be immediate in response and the competitive edge is going to be much greater."

CM Johnson continued, "Everything Jesse's (Jessie Quillen) sayin' about getting the scenario set up where we are shovel ready on these available sites, I'm 100% in agreement with."

The President of Gateway College, Chuck Hall, weighed in. He told the Board, "What Commissioner Williams is talking about is a really popular concept, where a building is built and then you have the company coming in and they bring their machines and so they are training people on their machines while they're building their company, so you cut that lapse time."

Commissioner Williams said he thought someone should "come in and tell us the sites that really need to be done... and tell us this is what you need to do; this is where you need to head."

Commissioner Williams opined, "I think we go through that process first."

County Owned Property

Columbia County owns many pieces of developable industrial property. Commissioner Williams thought that one piece on the North side of town, in the vicinity of the under construction Bascom Norris Bypass, should be made ready for development.

Board member Glenn Owens said, "Even if it's not the right place for the building (spec building) it's still a great site for somebody."

Com Williams said, "Other than Plum Creek, it's the only piece of property that we have that has rail accessibility."

City Owned Property

City Manager Johnson said that he is looking to do industrial development at the Lake City Airport.

He told the Board, "I would be supportive of moving forward with a spec building both at the airport... and for the County to do one (on one of its industrial sites)."

Site Prep

The County Engineer estimated that it would cost $160,600 in site preparation costs for two proposed sites.

It is unclear where the money would come from to pay for the site preparation.

Board member Stephen Douglas said "It's a little frustrating. We don't have any shovel ready properties." "We've worked on this since 2012. We're still where we're at. We need some shovel ready sites. We can't get that done."

City Manager Johnson said the City has two shovel ready sites, one at the airport and another by the airport. "They're sittin' there ready to go," he said.

Then he added, "If Columbia County's got an industrial park, I'm assumin', that's already platted out, and certainly Lake City's got one, so maybe it's time to identify another park area, a large mass of land, and go ahead and plat it out and move ahead with havin' a new industrial park somewhere."

Com. Williams Will Bring the Proposals to the County 5

Com. Williams told the Board that he would bring the site prep proposals to the County Commission at its first budget workshop on February 27th. He said, "We will go ahead and make sure we can secure the funding to do what we need to do to enhance the availability of those two pieces of property."

This morning, Com Williams told the Observer that he will also bring the idea of funding a spec building to the February 27th work shop.


It is not clear how the site prep and the spec building(s) would be financed.

City Manager Johnson mentioned during the discussion that he thought there was state grant money available for the building(s).


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