Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.

County News / Florida News

Columbia County's inland port decades late
Port of Miami gearing up since the 80's

Sunrise over the Port of Miami

Like giant praying mantises, the 9 cranes in the Port of Miami greet the rising sun as South Florida looks forward to the completion of the widening of the Panama Canal and its continued role as the "Cargo Gateway of the Americas." Columbia County's Inland Port and the hype surrounding it is at least 15 years too late.


Sunrise over Columbia County's Inland Port

The frost is still on the ground as the sun rises over Columbia County's Inland Port the day Gov. elect Scott journeyed to Lake City. If he would have driven past the County's Inland Port, he would have seen signs that have been drooping for months. With $200,000 in salaries and benefits for the 2 person IDA staff; with $200,000 plus benefits for the County Commissioners and with an IDA Board who tells anyone who will listen what a great job they have been doing, one can only wonder who is watching the store?


Miami's skyline sparkles in the early morning light

Framed by two cruise ships in the "Cruise Capitol of the World", Miami's skyline sparkles in early morning light. This is Columbia County/Lake City's competition for business.


Columbia County's trees sparkle in the early morning light

Looking toward Lake City, the misdirected drooping signs in the middle of the photo, which should be perpendicular to the road in order to be seen, indentify the Columbia County Inland Port.


The Port of Miami is a clear shot to the Ocean

The Port of Miami is a clear shot to the ocean and is America's closest port to the Panama Canal. The dredging of the port to allow super freighters to dock is expected to be completed by 2014. Columbia County is hyping the dredging of Jax Port as one of the reasons for the future success of its Inland Port. There are many that believe that this is just another pipe dream and that Jax Port, if it is ever dredged, won't be for a very long time.


South Florida Economic Summit Coming January 11th

The South Florida Economic Summit, sponsored by the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce will have as its opening speaker, Governor Rick Scott. While the economic development wizards in Columbia County have recently discovered the possibilities of a "free trade zone" the folks in Miami have been in the foreign trade zone business since 1976.


Columbia County/North Central Florida economic summit

The tractor in the parking lot of Gateway Community College announced the Columbia County Summit with a vinyl sign strung between the tractor and a tree.


30 year commissioner, Ronald Williams opened the Columbia County/North Central Florida conference dressed in his traditional cowboy garb and rattle snake boots. The Commissioner's latest claim to fame was telling the world on television that the Columbia County Commission couldn't be trusted to keep economic secrets and then telling the County Commission that he did not mean them.


The County's long time Economic Development Director, Jim Poole, addresses the summit, which according to Deputy Economic Development Director, Gina Reynolds, was sponsored by the land owners, Plum Creek, which is the largest private land owner in the country. If the Inland Port ever gets developed, which doesn't seem likely in the near future, Plum Creek will be the one getting the money for the land. From left to right are County Commissioner Stephen Bailey, behind the tree, Todd Powell of Plum Creek, Mr. Poole, Com Williams in the Cowboy hat and then Representative, Debbie Boyd.


Mr. Poole and many other speakers addressed an audience filled with the press, politicians from the Fed's on down and just plain folks. There was much talk, no specifics and no explanation why it took Columbia County decades to wake up and see the economic development boat was sailing by, while other areas in the South East have been gearing up for years. There is no master plan for the Plum Creek site, no utility plan and no road plan, while at the same time the local politicians are claiming that the Plum Creek site, which is just trees, will generate thousands of jobs.


South Florida has been gearing up for years

South Florida, as well as the Lake Placid area, Ocala, Jax Port, Cecil Field, and the Port of Savannah area have been gearing up for years building warehouses and office space and expanding port facilities. While all this has been going on Columbia County has done nothing. In the South East I-95 corridor there are millions of sq feet of warehouse and office space. The photo below speaks for itself.


Columbia County's leadership in North Central Florida speaks for itself

Columbia County's Inland Port is on the right, behind the barely visible droopy signs, which are behind the first telephone poll on the right. Less than an hour down the road is Jacksonville and the Cecil Field Commerce Center, "which is one of the most sought after locations in the Southeastern United States for manufacturing, supply chain logistics and industrial end users." That story is coming soon.

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

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More on Columbia County Economic Development:

Plum Creek on the move in Columbia County $190 million,  75 long term jobs on the docket (November 18, 2011)

Columbia County Economic Development: Will Lake City continue as the "red-headed step child?" (August 4, 2011)

Workforce Florida, streamlining by adding another layer of bureaucracy: Cost $750,000 (July 27, 2011)

FL Economic Development Czar Speaks - Musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic? (July 24, 2011)

Columbia County: Garbage Capital of North Central Florida? (June 7, 2011)

Tallahassee: Economic Development Legislative Session Wrap-up (May 31, 2011)

Florida's Economic Development Czar Came to Columbia County - Really (May 31, 2011)

Columbia County Economic Development Blowin' in the wind - 20 years too late (March 2, 2011)

Economic Development in their own words (Jan 24, 2011)

FL Enterprise Zones under the gun (Jan 23, 2011)

County & IDA Drop the Ball - Again (Jan 05, 2011)

Columbia County's inland port decades late (Jan 03, 2011)

Columbia County ranks 5th in the nation in the unemployed (Dec 18, 2010)

IDA Continues sub par under County management (Nov 29, 2010)

County Economic Development
Making it up as they go along
(Oct 06, 2010)

Lake City Planning for Future Downtown - County Commission MIA (June 25, 2010)

The Great Columbia County Dog and Pony Show (June 02, 2010)

IDA Rudderless • Web presence a mess (Feb 02, 2010)