Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Columbia County News

Columbia County Economic Development:  First Appearance By New Chief, Glenn Hunter

"My family goes back six-seven generations"

After introducing himself, Mr. Hunter didn't have anything to say until the end of the meeting.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – County Manager Dale Williams told the Board, "I get to introduce somebody that needs no introduction. The County has extended an offer and Glenn has accepted the offer as the County's new Economic Development Director. The thing that impresses me most about Glenn is his energy and his desire to help the community. He has Columbia County's best interest at heart."

County Chair and self appointed Chairman of the Economic Development Advisory Board, Ronald Williams told Mr. Hunter, "We have an aggressive, pro business board and we are looking forward to working with you."

Glenn Hunter, Economic Development Director by Default: It's the Pedigree, Not Degree That Counts

Mr. Hunter responded, "The work we're doing is all about jobs. My family goes back six-seven generations on both sides. This is my home and I have no intention of going anywhere else. We have a lot of people struggling. Anything that I can do to make it better, I'll do that. We're looking to find someone to help facilitate and get all the final little things done."

The County's New Economic Dev. Chief Is Unknown

Mr. Hunter has been in private business in Lake City since 1990 and was on the School Board for over twenty years, four which had Columbia High School rated as a failing D school. He is unknown in economic development circles. The County is arranging to get Mr. Hunter economic development training.

Chairman Williams said, "It takes three governments working together: the School System, the City of Lake City, and Gateway College. We have the tools in our tool box."

Next Up: a pitch for retail tax incentives

Rodney Haines made a pitch for tax incentives at the Lake City Mall

Rodney Haines of Recovery Solutions Group addressed the Economic Development Advisory Board looking for tax incentives for his client, Hull Story Gibson (HSG), a company that owns shopping malls in the Southeast, including the Lake City Mall.

Top 10 myths about working retail:
Retail jobs are notoriously poor payers and lack decent benefits.

In return for expanding the Lake City Mall, some of which has already occurred or is in progress, HSG was looking to make a deal with the County in which the County would agree to a 1/2 million dollar revenue sharing agreement; a 50% reduction in future impact fees for new development; and a 50% rebate of the increased property tax on new development.

HSG would commit to $5 mil in investment in the mall and the creation of 100 full, part time, temporary, and seasonal jobs.

Mr. Haines told the Board that he has been working with Retail Strategies Group, the outfit that the County recently agreed to fund to the tune of $80,000 by making a donation to the Chamber of Commerce for a three year retail study, the conclusions of which so far remain a mystery.

Board member Glen Owens

Board member Glen Owens, a local business owner who weathered the recession, was not entirely happy with the proposal. He said, "I would have a problem doing this on what's there now. I wouldn't be for that at all."

Mr. Haines was looking for an incentive to also fill empty stores in the mall.

Mr. Owens said, "They've been there a long time and there's always been empty stores in that building since it was built."

During his presentation, Mr. Haines said there is presently planned expansion.

Again, Mr. Owens took exception, "Is that smart of us to worry about doing something for something that is fixin' to go forward?"

Board members FPL's Simmons, City Manager Johnson, and local businessmen Douglas and Vann added to the conversation, all with reservation or contrasting opinions.

Chairman Williams said, "I don't see the disadvantage to go for business. If a new company come in here and we want to give them a big abatement, that's money that's not havin' to spend – to construct the business... I'll support anything that has to do with job creation."

Attorney Foreman said, "Cutting through everything – you're just cutting them a check. You don't have to call it abatement, reimbursement or anything."

The Board formed a subcommittee. Those meetings are public meetings covered by the Sunshine Law. The new Economic Development Director has voiced reservations about the Sunshine law.

Mr. Hunter added nothing to the conversation.

Columbia County Schools: preparing its student for jobs?

Chamber Director Dennille Decker told the Board that there was a problem in the School District with workforce development.

Finally, Lake City's Chamber of Commerce Director Dennille Decker addressed the Board telling it that there is a continuing problem with "workforce development." She said, "Columbia kids are getting out of school – there are soft skill problems – they weren't showing up to work on time – they weren't dressing appropriately." Ms. Decker said the Chamber will be bringing speakers to address the County's 8th graders informing them of what opportunities are available in Columbia County."

The County's largest and best paying employers are the government (federal, state, and local), unless one is a Sheriff's Deputy or a County Fireman.

Your reporter asked new Economic Development Director and 24 yr school board veteran Hunter if the schools taught the necessary job getting skills.

Ms. Decker said the discussion with the school district began last year. She and former Director Quillen addressed the issue. "The school system does do a lot of the training, but for some reason – I don't know if they need the real world experience or what."

Mr. Hunter said there are business education classes in the High School.


Comments  (to add a comment go here)  

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


Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.