It’s been nearly two weeks since Tallahassee’s economic development landscape was officially reshaped into something never seen before.
While the players remain the same, a new process is unfolding. A long list of formalities, staff hires and pending projects had to be addressed on day one. The Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County dissolved in January. It was replaced on Feb. 29 by a government-led process within the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency — the area’s new designated economic development organization.
Projects started by the EDC changed hands. Now they fall under the newly formed Office for Economic Vitality. The most exciting project is dubbed “Project Presidential.”
Confidentiality restrictions prevent officials from naming the company at this time. However, it’s a financial and personnel services firm based in Tallahassee that’s looking to expand and remain in the city. It may be a candidate for qualified targeted industry incentives and other perks.
With an average annual salary of $43,000 per year, the unnamed company plans to hire 180 new full-time employees. In the near future, city and county commissions are expected to vote on whether to approve those perks and incentives.
“They are looking at where they can move in our community. We don’t want to lose them. This is a retention project,” said Ben Pingree, the new director of the joint city-county Department of Planning, Land Management and Community Enhancement (PLACE).
Pingree said the “hot project” was first handled by the EDC before it dissolved. Then it was handed off to the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, the point agency during the transition. The IA board also approved the creation of the Office for Economic Vitality, which serves as the city and county’s consolidated economic development offices.
Efforts are underway to identify a “cool” location for the firm, Pingree said. That location could be somewhere on Tallahassee’s south side, perhaps near Florida A&M University. Pingree said if a location can be secured, it would be an example of businesses wanting to be near universities and drive economic development in a targeted area.
While work continues on Project Presidential, the chamber and local government aren’t standing still with their own transformation.
Gray Swoope, a recognized leader in economic development and the state’s secretary of commerce from 2011 to 2015, has been hired as a consultant by the chamber and the IA to help shape the future of economic development in Tallahassee
City and county commissioners are slated to get an update on Swoope’s report at the June 20 meeting and make a decision to approve recommendations in September.
“We view that function as a very critical piece of moving forward,” Leon County Administrator Vince Long said.
Following a four-week assessment starting in February, Swoope also submitted first phase recommendations to the chamber that will be wrapped into the chamber’s three-year strategic plan.
Here are some recommendations:
- Continue to be the advocate and voice of business.
- Create a task force, committee or separate entity to perform economic and community Development functions for the chamber.
- Bring clarity to the chamber’s proposed initiative focused on economic develop by further developing a vision statement;
- Design an initial construct of the chamber economic development initiative; and
- Create key messaging around the newly developed economic development initiative.
“While this transition occurs, we will continue to do what we have always done and that’s work together to promote our community,” said Sue Dick, president and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce. “The bottom line is we want companies to grow, expand and relocate here.”
Credit: Tallahassee Democrat