Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County Economic Development: Will Lake City continue as the "red-headed step child?"

The Post-It on the IDA/Economic Development Offices yesterday afternoon says it all.

The Columbia County Economic Development Committee/IDA continues to muddle along, dragging its feet, filling each meeting rehashing mostly old subjects and accomplishing basically nothing. Yesterday morning's meeting was mostly more of the same. Months after discovering that it would have to find an economic development director, the County continues dragging its feet. The County's critical partner, the City of Lake City, is still being treated like a "red-headed stepchild" and still does not have a seat on the committee.

March 2011 - The Committee meets - What about Lake City?

The minutes of March 2, 2011 need no further explanation:

Motion by Jeff Simmons to hone the working relationship between Columbia County and the City of Lake City to insure that a strong partnership is in place to prepare the required infrastructure for the benefit of future economic development. A letter for the signature of Chair DePratter will be prepared by the county staff inviting the City to appoint a liaison between the City and the Economic Development Committee.

On March 11th, Chairman DePratter via letter invited "the City of Lake City to have a representative of the City attend future Economic Development Board meetings."

The Economic Development Committee (EDC) meetings are public meetings which anyone can attend without invitation.

Lake City's Mayor Witt wrote back advising the County that it would send a representative and asked, "Please let us know if our representative will have any official role other than sharing the city's utility information?"

April - Another meeting - What about Lake City?

The very last thing discussed during the April 13th EDC meeting was Lake City's participation in the County's economic development. The official minutes reflect that no one from the City was in attendance and state the following:

The City has expressed an interest in serving on the Economic Development Committee. The Chair advised that there are no vacancies at this time, but said the City is welcome to apply and attend meetings. Mayor Witt will appoint someone to attend future meetings.

The always gracious Mayor Witt was in the audience.

May - Another meeting - What about Lake City?

May rolled around and the last thing that came up at the County EDC meeting was Lake City's participation. The minutes state the following:

 "Jeff Simmons discussed the need to have a representative from the City of Lake City added to the EDC. Suzanne Norris suggested that perhaps there should always be a designated seat for a City representative. The Chair stated that Attorney Joel Foreman will assist with developing a criteria for appointments to the Committee."

Purposefully omitted from the minutes are the following:

County Commissioner Ronald William's remarks. In part he said, "The City is the life line of water, sewer and utilities."

Chairman DePratter said the city needed to fill out application (to be on the committee).

City Manager Wendell Johnson told the committee that the City was not filling out an application. "I don't think that anybody from the City is going to be sending an application over."

Chairman DePratter responded, "We will figure that out and get back with you... We'll have an answer for that at the next meeting. Actually, we'll have it out ahead of the meeting."

June & July - No meetings - Yesterday's meeting
Lake City: "We need to address that." 

At the end of yesterday's meeting Marc Vann brought up Lake City's participation on the EDC. Mr. Vann said, "We talked a little bit about how are we going to decide how we are going to include someone from the City."

Chairman DePratter replied, "I haven't had discussion with anybody in the City -- I thought about it."

Mr. Vann continued, "... ex officio type member, full voting member, do we need another slot? I don't have the answer to any of that."

Attorney Joel Forman added, "We'll bullet point it and discuss it at the next meeting."

Jeff Simmons: I recall the first meeting when it came up and they are not here today.

Unidentified speaker: We need to address that.

The City speaks

A few hours after the meeting, the Observer spoke with City Manager Wendell Johnson about the City's participation on the County Economic Development Committee. City Manager Johnson told your reporter, "I do not see the city's representative in an ex officio capacity. That will serve no purpose."

Mr. Johnson continued, "There will not be effective economic development in Columbia County without the participation of Lake City. You can't have economic development without water and sewer. Obviously, the City has to be an integral part of the County's economic development program. Lake City wants to work with Columbia County."


If economic development was doing nothing but thinking and chatting, Columbia County could well be the richest county in the universe.

Tonight, the County Commission meets. It will be interesting to see the County Commission finally acts and establishes a seat for Lake City at the Columbia County economic development table.

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, 2010)

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)