Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

Columbia County News

County Economic Development Advisory Board Talks of Tennis – Double Faults Into Disarray

Travel budget goes through the roof

Posted October 9, 2014  09:35 am

Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, did not have a good time at yesterday morning's EDAB meeting.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Yesterday's Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) meeting double faulted into a meltdown of disarray as the members questioned the purpose and direction of the Advisory Board. Newly hired Economic Development Director, Glen Hunter, who had been under fire for being involved in meetings regarding grandiose plans for a tennis center, tried to clear the air without much success. In a bizarre action, Mr. Hunter asked the EDAB to approve the 2015 Economic Development Budget, a budget which had been approved by the County 5 last month.

Economic Development Director Hunter began the meeting by asking the Board to approve the 2015 budget which had been approved last month by the County 5.

As Director Hunter explained there was nothing “earth shattering,” Debbie Moats, the Economic Development Assistant, handed out a one page copy of the previously approved 2015 budget.

Travel appropriation up. Neither the County 5 nor the EDAB seemed to know.

Director Hunter said, “The only area that I might point out to you is ‘Travel [and] Per Diem’; you’ll notice that the funding went up. That was a request that I had made for the commission to consider.”

While a line item budget might have shown that, the handout did not.

There was never a discussion during any County budget hearing or budget workshop regarding the increase in the Economic Development Department’s travel allowance.

Director Hunter never publically presented his budget to the County 5, or the Economic Development Advisory Board before it was approved in September.

Director Hunter said the increase would enable the Economic Development Department, “to begin hooking up with site connectors across the country.”

He said that Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, visited him last week.

He continued, “I’m working with their staff on choosing the best site connectors that we can go to... I’ve been working with a lot of other economic development directors and what they do to prospect.”

Director Hunter added that County Manager Dale Williams thought this was a good idea.

Chairman Ronald Williams addresses Board member Stephen Douglas.

None of the EDAB members explained that the budget handout did not show the line item breakdown of the Economic Development Department.

When the Observer pointed out that the County Commission had already approved the budget, Mr. Hunter agreed, adding “I bring it before this Board to approve it. It’s just a formality.”

Chairman Williams said, “He want it done, so we’re doin’ it.”

Tennis Anyone? What is the function of the EDAB?

During the last six weeks there has been discussion regarding Director. Hunter’s working outside of the public eye and auspices of the County’s Economic Development Department in a quest to bring a world class tennis facility to Columbia County.

The tennis court issue was not the problem, but the way it was being handled, was.

Director Hunter told the Board, “If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way... I think that the potential of us being affiliated with the USTA [would be a good thing]. I feel real good about it.”

After asking his question, Glen Owens listens.

Board member Glen Owens, a long time Columbia County successful business owner asked, “So really this has nothing to do with us?”

Chairman Williams answered, “No.”

Mr. Owens responded, “That’s good. I believe that’s a TDC (Tourist Development Council) project. I don’t believe it’s an economic development project, so I’m not sure why we’re discussing it.”

Director Hunter said, “This is economic development at some level... It’s another tool for us.”

Mr. Owens, “I guess I’m still confused. Are you saying this is something that we are going to have some sort of involvement with in the future?

Director Hunter, “I don’t think that it needs to be a project.”

Board member Marc Vann said that the Industrial Development Authority was changed to economic development because, “Obviously, industrial development wasn’t working.”

Board member Simmons added, “We’ve evolved into everything economic development.”

Stephen Douglas listens to Chairman Willaims.

Board member Steven Douglas asked for clarity. He said, “I’m not sure where we’re going with this. Can you make me feel better on that?”

An animated Chairman Williams said the purpose of the ordinance, “which you have in your book right there. It tell you exactly what the footprint -- of where we’re goin and what this board is set out to do.”

Chairman Williams said the publicity regarding the tennis was “blown out of proportion... I think that anything that this board does in connection with private groups to create a single job with the help of this director is a win-win for Columbia County and that’s why we’re here.”

City Manager Wendell Johnson, who claims to be an economic development expert explained, “I think I can clarify the understanding and confusion that you two [Mr. Owens and Mr. Douglas] have. Tourism is economic development.”

Chairman Williams added, “That’s right.”

City Manager Johnson explained that the tennis courts would infuse money into the economy. Mr. Johnson said the tennis facility would “probably do it better or as good as these softball and baseball tournaments we have here.”

When your reporter asked for an explanation of the purpose of the Economic Development Advisory Board, Mr. Simmons read from the ordinance, which satisfied nobody.


Yesterday morning’s Economic Development Advisory Board meeting would instill confidence in no one who is looking to invest in Columbia County.

For the taxpayers and all residents, this is not a good thing.

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.