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Economic Development Chief Glenn Hunter Working for Success in a Crowded Field

Posted December 4, 2014  06:20 am

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Seven months into the job, Columbia County's Economic Development Director, Glenn Hunter, is working hard for success. The artwork over his shoulder reminds him of that every day he comes into his office. Director Hunter told the Observer, "For me, success means jobs and new business for Columbia County."

Your reporter spent a few minutes with Director Hunter after Wednesday morning's Economic Development Advisory Board meeting.


During the Economic Development Advisory Board meeting Director Hunter mentioned that a couple of businesses were looking to locate at the Ellisville interchange.

Observer:  Glenn, can you tell me a little bit about what is going on at Ellisville?

Director Hunter: It's going to be retail.

Observer:  I thought you were looking for industrial expansion.

Director Hunter:  By retail businesses locating there it will build up that interchange and also help with utilities at the interchange. It will create more interest for industry. I'm sure you know the old adage, "A rising tide raises all boats."

Blanche Hotel

During the earlier meeting the Blanche Hotel came up. This is a contentious issue with many folks thinking that private industry should renovate the old blighted hotel, while others believe that the government should lend a hand and a lot of money.

Lake City, City Manager Wendell Johnson, is working on a yet to be completed deal with the only developers in America who are willing to consider any kind of renovation of the Blanche. So far, it seems that Mr. Johnson's deal will require a major investment by local government.

Observer:  What do you see for the future of the Blanche?

Director Hunter:  A couple restaurants; some shops and stores. I hope you will see commercial businesses locating in there – smaller businesses – 1, 2 or 3 man operations.

Observer:  What about residential?

Director Hunter: The proposal is about 7500 sq feet in the back. Probably about 8 or 10 residences.

Observer:  In the back?

Director Hunter: In some portion in one of the wings. The building is 80,000 square feet.

Observer:  So they're looking at a little less than 10% for residential. Is that going to be low-income?

Director Hunter:  No – I don't think so. The New Market tax credits are for blighted areas. Residential is not a condition.

Director Hunter continued:  I am hopeful that something good will come of it. I can remember getting my hair cut in the Blanche. I think it will be good for industry if they see we have a thriving downtown.

Director Hunter concluded:  Just like with the tennis facility. When CEOs come in and see you have a top notch tennis facility that is considered real high in the state, that's another positive community indicator.

Other Localities: The Competition

Observer: There are other big players on the map:  Cecil Field in Jacksonville; Gainesville – Alachua County; Ocala; Darryl Register in Baker County. How are you going to compete?

Director Hunter: How are you going to compete?  All you can do is take all you've got and complete.

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