Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

Columbia County Updates Econ Dev Strategic Plan Stakeholders Not Part of the Process 

COLUMBIA COUNTY/LAKE CITY, FL – On November 28, 2016, after a couple of false starts, the Economic Development Advisory Board Strategic Plan Subcommittee met to update the $40,000 2014 County Economic Development Strategic Plan. It was a private affair. The committee did not include Columbia County stakeholders and Lake City's representative, City Manager Wendell Johnson was MIA.

Other stakeholders missing from the table were the Lake City/Columbia County Chamber of Commerce; representatives from the educational community, FGC and the Columbia County School District; industry representatives.

Upgrading the Numbers

The Economic Development Advisory Board (EDAB) Strategic Plan Subcommittee updated the statistics. The Regional Labor Analysis shows a great unexplained disparity.

The job earnings category in the updated plan does not upgrade the earnings categories to reflect the number of workers not making a living wage. It is well established that a single mother needs to earn $22,000 or $1,833 per month to survive independently.

Columbia County has repeatedly demonstrated that it doesn't care about living wages and the plan intentionally remains unclear.

SWOT Analysis: Dishonest

The upgraded SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis speaks for itself.

The strengths are the same between the 2014 and the updated plans: access to major transportation assets (rail, ports, highways); geographic location; access to higher education; proximity to airports; and the Rural Area of Opportunity designation, which is really a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC). The RACEC name change came courtesy of the FL League of Cities and the FL Legislature.

The major weaknesses have been distorted. Lack of a well educated, ambitious labor pool, has been changed to: lack of a higher educated labor pool.

Weaknesses: Historic

The original plan listed as a weakness the "lack of a working relationship between the City/County." This item was disappeared from the new plan. The decision was made by Commissioner Nash and businessman Stephen Douglas during the November 28 meeting, a meeting in which City Manager Johnson, who volunteered to be a committee member, was MIA.

The committee couldn't eliminate the other weaknesses: large low income community/poverty rate; quality of life amenities limited (recreation/shopping); lack of infrastructure (water, wastewater, natural gas).

The opportunities remained basically the same: a local airport; tourism; and the aviation academy, whose future, financing; and staffing has been chronically problematic.

The Committee redefined the threats in the analysis. The number 1 threat: City/County relationship was disappeared. The number 2 threat: high real estate taxes was changed by removing the "high" to "real estate taxes." The other chronic threats remained the same: competing communities and states; utility availability and slow reactionary approach to areas of promise; delay of JAXPORT improvements.

Measuring Return on Investment

The $40,000 2014 plan called for quarterly reports to measure the success of the plan and various metrics, such as the frequency of use of grants and incentives; active projects; attendance of stakeholder groups; and business retention and expansion reports.

During the past two years, the Economic Development Department has produced zero reports and has failed to complete or have completed incentive applications. The department is supervised by Assistant County Manager Scott Ward, whose resume lacks any kind of economic development experience.


The updated strategic plan removed the requirement that the progress of projects, policy, and programs be reported on quarterly. The purpose of quarterly reports was to "be used to track and identify areas to improve or change."

The committee removed the requirement for quarterly reports, updating it to annual reports.

Columbia County: the legend continues.

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.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

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


Related Articles - 2016/17 Econ Dev:

Columbia County Updates Econ Dev Strategic Plan Stakeholders Not Part of the Process  January 3, 2017

Czar Power: County 5 Chair Loads the Bases, Nash Out as Econ Dev Advisory Bd Chief  December 27, 2016

Columbia County 5 Approves $25,000 for Ten Pages of TDC Web Content
 December 16, 2016 

Econ Dev Strategic Plan Committee Meets: More Interested in Massaging the Truth Than Telling It   November 29, 2016

Columbia Cnty Econ Dev Incentives: Home-Grown, Mom-and-Pops, Small Business Need Not Apply November 3, 2016

After Giving Away Millions, Columbia County Economic Development Incentives May be Heading Into Prime Time
October 28, 2016

Taxpayers on the Hook - $10,000 No Strings Attached, Cnty Econ Dev: FSU's Hendry Scores September 9, 2016

Cnty Chair Reverses Vote - Love's Wins - Confusion Part II of Economic Development the County 5 Way August 5, 2016

Cnty Chair Throws Econ Dev Advisory Bd Under Bus Part I of Economic Development the County 5 Way  August 5, 2016

County 5 Poised To Give Away Another $ Million Plus Incentive for 35 Low Paying Jobs August 4, 2016

$1,325,000 Econ Dev Incentive On Tap At County 5 Tonight: Minimum Wage Unclear  July 21, 2016

Econ Dev: Extenuating Circumstance, Late Notice, Lack of Agenda Keeps Public in the Dark  July 19, 2016

Columbia County Workforce Development Summit On Tap for September
June 22, 2016

Cnty 5 to Vote on $869,140 Tax Abatement for Econ Underdevelopment Non-Living Wage Jobs   June 16, 2016

Columbia Cnty Econ Development "We don't have a workforce strategy"
June 1, 2016

Drunk With Power, Nash Board Plays Post Office W/Developer - County Bldg Leased for a Buck  May 21, 2016

Hutton Development Scores: City Council Approves 10yr $440,00 Tax Abatement & $340k in Cash  June 14, 2016

 • Econ Development Bd Recommends $1,650,000 Retail Incentive for Another Shopping Mall  April 7, 2016

 •  Parker Neely – Gateway Crossing Scores Big: On Tap for $255,000 Plus free Association Dues March 5, 2016

 • The 5 Sends Neely–Gateway Crossing $255,0000 EDAB Incentive Back to the Drawing Board  Feb. 22, 2016

  • To Incentivize or Not to Incentivize: EDAB Approves $255k Gateway Crossings Incentive

Feb. 19, 2016

 • Lake City Developer Wants $255,000 From County, City Manager Johnson says, "It's a deal"  January 07, 2016

 • Columbia County Economic Development: Confusion 101 "What's goin' on?"
Nov. 6, 2015

 • Columbia County 5 At It Again: Skimming $80,000 of Cream Out of Taxpayer's Pockets

July 22, 2013