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Clay County Economic Development Workshop

Clay County Economic Development Workshop

Full Article Here - Clay Today - by Kile Brewer - July 19, 2017

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Clay County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Bill Garrison made the case for EDC funding Tuesday during an economic development workshop with the Clay County Board of County Commissioners.

The corporation’s outgoing director supported the mission of EDC as the county’s main marketing group. “We’re trying to sell Clay County,” he said to the board, before recommending that they double the current EDC budget before looking for his replacement to head the company. Last week, Garrison accepted the position of executive officer for the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

“The ideal circumstance would be about a [half-million dollar] budget with three professionals working for you,” Garrison said to the commissioners, who are providing about half that budget currently. “You need somebody to run the show, you need a marketing person and you need somebody out there knocking on doors, following up on these projects.”

Commission Chair Wayne Bolla was skeptical of the funding increase, asking Garrison, “How can you show me that my money is being spent well?”

Garrison came prepared with numbers. The data compared Clay County’s EDC and overall economy to that of six surrounding counties. In almost every category, Clay County comes in third behind Duval and St. Johns. St. Johns receives more than $400,000 from its BCC for its EDC, which Garrison attributes to their number two spot. With more money, he thinks the BCC could close that gap.

Unfulfilled, Bolla continued after Garrison looking for proof that the BCC’s money was actually being spent in a way that benefits the county. Garrison asserted that not everything happens overnight with these deals.

Click here to view the meeting video archive

“You have to be patient,” Garrison said. “You can’t just drop $500,000 in place and think that tomorrow something nice is going to happen, it just doesn’t work that way.”

Commissioner Mike Cella agreed, citing the presentation from Jerry Mallot, the president of the regional EDC, JAXUSA Partnership – of which Clay County pays to be a member – and their long-term efforts to bring two Amazon warehouses to Northeast Florida.

“Obviously you have the Amazon story of seven years before you saw fruition,” Cella said, “but it looks like they’re going to be a big employer in our area for a long time.”

After his comments, Cella turned to the future, asking “Where do we go from here?” after Garrison leaves his post as the EDC’s commander in chief.

After his departure, Garrison thinks that the EDC should narrow its focus, which, in his experience with economic development, could help it achieve more of its goals in less time.

“I spent three years trying to be all things to all people,” Garrison said. “Walk with a rifle instead of a shotgun.” According to Garrison, the EDC’s director should be asking specifically “What are we going after, and how are we going to get there?”

Armed with numbers and success stories, Garrison remained focused and expressed to the commission that it needs to provide more funding to the organization if they want to see more results.

Commissioner Gavin Rollins agreed with Garrison, but not because of his pitch to the board, because of real success stories throughout Clay County.

“Obviously Bill is going to champion his own organization,” Rollins said. “The business owners who were part of it have told me personally, ‘This would not have happened,’ or, ‘It wouldn’t have happened to the extent it did or as quickly as it did,” or, ‘We would not have expanded as many jobs as we did,’ had it not been for a robust economic development in Clay County or had it not been for Clay County’s priority being number one on economic development.”

Rollins continued, summarizing his personal belief in a fully-funded EDC, based solely on his own observations of the organization’s benefit to the county.

“That’s why, for me, I’m a believer and sold on the ideas,” Rollins said. “I do think we have several examples that, for the $250,000, we’ve created millions and millions in projects that will be on the tax rolls for years to come.”

Since the July 18 meeting was only a workshop, in which no vote was allowed, the discussion on boosting EDC funding will now be taken into consideration at an upcoming regular BCC meeting.

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About Our Mission

The Clay Florida Economic Development Corporation provides concierge service for companies who want to re-invest in expansion in the county or relocate their companies to the region.

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  • Address: 1845 Town Center Blvd., Suite 110-B, Fleming Island, FL 32003

  • Phone: 904.375.9394

  • Email: Lpavlus@chooseclay.com