What we were doing in 2015 for economic development which never panned out

The Special Meeting for the White Springs Councilpersons of August 26, 2015 related to the I-75/136 Interchange Project. Julie Dennis of the DEO is suggesting a new component in securing the $250,000 required for the Feasibility Study, Project Development, Management and Operations and sponsorship of the corridor. This transpired due to the Governor vetoing the Competitive Florida Partnership’s staff’s requests. Instead, the DEO will now go through the Legislative staff.

It was passed through the house but there was a miscommunication and all requests were vetoed by the Governor. This year the DEO is going to add this additional step so it is passed. Helen Miller said she would like to go back to last year’s project and update it. The decision, however, was required today by 5:00 pm, due to the fact that the DEO has to submit their requests tomorrow.
We are looking at a Mixed Use Site Plan with project developers consisting of lodging, restaurant, management operations, staff training marketing and light manufacturing. This would be State support for rural communities and we will have some 250 jobs with a feasibility study and project development costing $250,000,000 in capital construction and facilities. Last year the project was done by the UF Students and this year it needs to be resubmitted to a professional who may identify companies that could go into the Tri-County Area. No matching funds are required and it doesn’t preclude White Springs from asking for more projects.

Willy Jefferson asked “We are doing all the leg work. What do we gain?” Miller advised there would be manufacturing jobs and hotels and Commissioner Putnam is in agreement of the project. Work would be done by professionals because we do not have anyone here that could do it. Something needs to be done at the interchange. Columbia County is on board. Suwannee County is not ready to do that and once there is a business plan, there will be a special independent district. Because of the Veto of the Governor’s office, this level wasn’t communicated to the Governor so we are starting early for the Competitive Florida Partnership project. The Land is cheap and it gives us the best opportunity to have a voice. Light manufacturing is possible and we took a long hard look and it would generate some 2,000 plus jobs. The time frame would be a ten (10) year period. They will determine which would be the best hotel, the best companies, etc.

Miller stated they checked the Flood plain and it is not in the Flood plain for the 100 or 200 year floods.

Mayor Rhett Bullard said initially we discussed the sharing of benefits by utilizing our water system to that exit. Suwannee County did not want our system but they want the benefit. There is feasibility because there was a truck stop in the past. Suwannee County stated it will be getting its own water system so why do the feasibility Study when it won’t help us? If Contractors knew they could do it, they would pay for their own feasibility studies.

Mayor Bullard stated “How do we respond to our public? Why send money outside of White Springs, not even in our County? Why would a county give up their land area? Suwannee County should be requesting the Study.
Walter McKenzie provided a long statement of what benefits he felt we would have which mainly considered the fact that we are in the second year and how would it look if we pulled out of the project now. It was also stated that the petroleum contamination is being cleaned up at the corridor.

Mayor Bullard again stated that the people in White Springs need something tangible that they can touch see and feel for our own town. He asked whether we could add another project to the request and it was determined to add ten low income houses at $75,000 each to the corridor project.

There are no guarantees that people in White Springs would be hired for the jobs. Suwanee Bounty will not share its revenues. Columbia County is on board. It is believed that if we build they will come. Yet we have nothing to draw the people from the corridor to visit White Springs. In my opinion, it would be better to build a public swimming pool and as there builds more revenue a water park. That alone could provide jobs in White Springs. As Mayor Bullard said, most of the jobs at the corridor would be $15.00 jobs or minimum wage jobs. Why not have minimum wage jobs right here in White Springs. This is my opinion as well. Yet, the request went in for the Mixed Use Site Development Plan with the amendment to include low income housing of $75,000 per home for 10 homes. I am not certain how this will pan out because usually in grants it is for one specific project and this appears to be two, but we will see.
We have not yet received money from the State for the work the UF students did insofar as the feasibility study for the corridor.

When I lived in NV, I had three friends who were venture capitalists and others who dabbled in investments, mainly attorneys. Before we could even provide proposals for projects….and that included a golf course near the old Mustang Ranch which Golf Enterprises provided free of charge but for which we required investors and also placed together a build- to- suit for a Truck Terminal, which manifested. Investors require 20-30% (the latter being the usual) investment on their money, or they did at that time. NV did not have a usury law and sometimes it took a lot of work to just get investors to consider a project and they sought only those projects that would provide them the highest amount of revenue/returns on their investments based upon an area with a great deal of traffic. I guess I am in agreement with Mayor Bullard, Why should we do all the work when we receive no revenue and there are no guarantees for jobs in White Springs. In any event the council voted 5/0 for the project with the low income housing. All the legislators include pork so why can’t we?

Our friend in Greenville lucked out because his Town is being considered by Wal-Mart which probably will give everyone in the town a job. He will hear in another week. Ocala has sought various businesses to move in the area and they have one salesperson that travels the US to entice businesses to move to the area. Their economic development is amazing. In any event, I wish everyone luck because we have a hotel now at the corridor and very few vehicles.

Other than being tired and picking any hotel at a certain point, at the corridor, who will come to White Springs? No Art festivals like .Mt. Dora; No Horse shows or Rodeos, No races; No specialty shops of old like Virginia City; No antique shops and ice cream shops like Micanopy, Horse drawn carriage rides, and no gazebo in the middle of town where a band can play to a crowd who enjoys dancing. We only have the folk festival and the azalea festival. And our town does not fit Micanopy’ historic district.

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