Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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North Central Florida Regional Planning Council: Quietly Funneling Millions Into the Region

Council members listen to the economic development presentation last Thursday night. Columbia County, which calls itself the "Gateway to Florida, was absent once again.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL –Last week's economic development presentation by the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council's senior planner, Steve Dopp, highlighted a little known fact: The Planning Council is the conduit for millions of dollars of federal grant dollars coming into the region.

In 1978 the Planning Council was designated a Federal Economic Development District by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This makes the member counties and municipalities eligible for federal financial assistance.

Federal rules require broad based community planning participation. As a result, the Council's Strategic Planning Committee has a membership of fifteen, some of whom are recognized economic development leaders.

Senior Planner Steve Dopp

Senior Planner Steve Dopp led the attendees through the basics of the region's Strategic Economic Development Strategy.

Over half of the region's population of just under 500,000 resides in the Gainesville area.

According to the Strategic Plan, as a result of the biotech incubator in Alachua and the Florida Innovation Hub at UF, "The region is becoming known as an innovation center."

Senior Planner Dopp pointed out that during the past 5 years projects facilitated through the Planning Council have brought $12.4 million of federal money into the region.

The Planning Council is the area agency used to justify federal economic development dollars funneled into the region for construction grants; planning and technical assistance grants; and economic adjustment assistance grants, which help overcome the loss of a major employer or loss through a natural disaster.

The region's Strategic Economic Development Strategy (or economic development plan) is developed by the Planning Council and funded by the American people through a federal grant of $63,000.

The North Central Florida Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy can be found here. A summary of the Strategy can be found here.

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