April 20, 2024

Economic yearbook 2009

Big Bend Yearbook 2009

Hard decisions -- striking a balance between services and taxes.

Charlotte Crane | 4/1/2009

Hamilton / Suwannee / Madison Counties ?

A plan by chicken processor Pilgrim’s Pride to lay off 505 employees this spring, one-third of the workforce at its Live Oak plant, is reverberating through the three counties, which are home to many plant workers. In the wake of Pilgrim’s move, dozens of chicken producers have closed down their operations. “It’s a domino effect,’’ says Suwannee County Economic Alliance President Dennis Cason, affecting employees, producers and banks. Hamilton County is hoping to get some good news from a Virginia-based wind and solar power systems manufacturer that plans to set up a production center. The Florida Energy and Climate Commission has approved $2.5 million for ARI Green Energy. The company is awaiting word on additional state incentives for the plant, which would create 175 jobs.

Lafayette / Columbia Counties Counties

Who's Hiring
» General Dynamics Land Systems in Tallahassee has hired 220 since last June and expects to hire another 20 in the second quarter. The plant makes electronic boxes for military combat vehicles. It currently employs 350. New hires include 12 engineers and assembly line workers.
In Lafayette County, Mayo Correctional Institute state prison will add 300 jobs when it completes an expansion next spring to accommodate 1,300 more inmates. Columbia County, meanwhile, gained 590 jobs last year, boosted by a new Target distribution center, a United States Coal Storage distribution center, Publix and Foodline stores and two new hotels. Other businesses, however, have downsized as housing sales and construction have stalled, says Jim Poole, executive director of the Lake City-Columbia County Chamber of Commerce/Development Authority.

Project to Watch

» The 2,500-acre R.O. Ranch Equestrian Park, operated by the Suwannee River Water Management District, expects to complete a phase one expansion by the fall, adding a visitors center, 30-unit RV campground, outdoor arena and 20-mile Steinhatchee River trail.

Jefferson / Gadsden / Wakulla Counties ?

Kimberly Moore
As CEO of Workforce Plus, Kimberly Moore works with community and educational leaders in Gadsden, Leon and Wakulla counties. [Photo: Ray Stanyard]
The January shutdown of mushroom producer Quincy Farms, one of Gadsden County’s largest employers, put 490 people on the unemployment rolls. Jefferson County has seen unemployment and foreclosure rates double in the past 12 months. It’s developing plans to make property it purchased at the Wacissa River headwaters tourist-ready. Wakulla County also is re-emphasizing eco-tourism and working to encourage cooperative agriculture.

Business to Watch

» Shields Marina, a 500-slip boat sales and storage business at St. Marks, opened a 6,000-sq.-ft. boating supplies store in March as it continues to recover and rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Dennis in 2005. “People are still using boats some, but not like in the past,’’ says owner and St. Marks Mayor Chuck Shields.

Taylor / Gilchrist Counties ?

Leaders are using the economy’s down time to lay plans for a more competitive future. Taylor County is wrapping up its Vision 2060, and Gilchrist recently formed a vision committee for a 30-year look ahead. “Most of our young people have to travel outside the county to work,’’ says Kyle Stone, executive director of the Gilchrist Chamber of Commerce and Development Authority.

Business to Watch

» Stephanie and Paul Metts plan to convert a 1925 icehouse they recently bought in Trenton’s historic district into a business for craft enterprises and an antique shop. It would be their third historic conversion. A 1910 dry goods store is now a frame and stained glass shop and a classroom. Their initial purchase, a 1925 Coca-Cola bottling company, vacant for 33 years, now houses the Suwannee Valley Quilt Shoppe and the Suwannee Rose Cafe — and is the centerpiece of an annual crafts and quilt festival.

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