february 4, 2011

A special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners of Lake County, Florida was held on Friday, February 4, 2011 at 8:30 a.m. at Tanner Hall, 29 W. Garden Avenue, Winter Garden, Florida.  The meeting was held in conjunction with a meeting held by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and County Commissioners Fred Brummer and Scott Boyd of Orange County to discuss an SR 429 Corridor Economic and Jobs Summit.  Lake County Commissioners attending were Leslie Campione and Sean Parks.

Mayor Jacobs introduced the meeting and indicated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss economic development for West Orange County.

Commissioner Brummer gave an introduction and mentioned the importance of completing the Wekiva Parkway to West Orange County.

Commissioner Boyd gave an introduction and mentioned the numerous cultural and agricultural interests in West Orange County.

Dr. Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia Community College was introduced as the facilitator.

Dr. Shugart introduced the first speaker, Dr. Sean Snaith, from the University of Central Florida who presented an economic forecast for the Central Florida area.  He indicated that a national recovery is underway and that it would be slower in Florida than the rest of the country.  The country and Orange County are on the cusp of a job creation period, but that it will be a long recovery process.  He stressed the importance of the Wekiva Parkway and rail projects to the Central Florida recovery.

The next speaker was Jerry Ross, Executive Director of the Disney Entrepreneurial Center in Orlando.  He described the center which is a collaboration between Orange County, the Disney Company and UCF.  Mr. Ross indicated that small business is the core of employment in Central Florida and will be at the center of new job creation.

Brian Walters, Executive Vice President of the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission was the next speaker.  Mr. Walters indicated that the EDC was funded 65% by private donations and 35% by public partners.  The EDC’s primary emphasis is to focus on primary sector companies, i.e. those that bring revenue into the region from outside of the region.

After a break, the final speaker was Tracy Crowe, a planner with Land Design Innovations who gave a presentation on the importance of transportation in the region, especially the importance of the 429 corridor and the completion of the Wekiva Parkway.  She reviewed the entire length of the 429 and the impact that it has had and may have on the communities along the road and its proposed extension.

Dr. Shugart introduced Jim Whittaker, Richard Irwin, Ann Marotta, Jeff Burnham, and Alex Ford as an industry panel to address the group.  Each of the panel has located or is locating a business in the West Orange area.  Mr. Whittaker is a partner in Collins Manufacturing, a machine shop business.  His company has 80 employees and he indicated that the biggest impediment to expansion of his business is the tangible property tax.

Richard Irwin is the CEO of Health Central.  His hospital, nursing home and other businesses employ more than 1,700 employees.  He indicated that the biggest impediment to his business is the large number of uninsured patients in the West Orange area.

Ann Marotta is the owner of Purple Cow Productions, which is a digital media production company located in downtown Winter Garden.  She indicated that her company had only 2 full time employees, but relied a lot on freelance contract workers.

Dr. Jeff Burnham is representing VitAG Corporation.  His company is very close to opening a new facility in the Zellwood area.  The company takes sludge from municipal wastewater plants and turns it into a fertilizer product.  His company was attracted to the area by Shelly’s Septic System through previous business dealings.

Alex Ford was the last speaker.  He is an attorney with the firm of Landis, Graham and French, P.A. but he spoke about an agricultural operation that his family was exploring, which was the growing of olives and the production of olive oil in the Central Florida area.

After the panel made their presentations, they answered questions from the audience.

At this point in the meeting Dr. Shugart invited all of the elected officials in the room up to the dais, and the audience posed comments to the elected officials indicating issues that they thought government might be able to solve in economic development and job creation.  The elected officials did not answer the questions or respond to the comments, but Mayor Jacobs indicated that they would be posted on a web site maintained by Lake County.

Comments and questions that were raised included the following:

1.      Why doesn’t Orange County give preference to local contractors

2.      Impact fees should be reduced.

3.      Transportation, especially the rail projects, completion of 429 and SR 50 are important to the region.

4.      Governments should be involved in workforce development.

5.      The development process should be made easier.

6.      Government regulations should be streamlined.

7.      An inventory of resources should be developed.

8.      There should be more communication between government and business.

9.      Agriculture should be encouraged.

10.   Should focus on existing business.

11.   Completion of 429 and Wekiva Parkway critical.

12.   Community centers should be addressed.

13.   Do local preference on a regional basis.

14.   Focus on long term lasting jobs.

15.   Provide technical education in high schools.

16.   Focus on International Trade.

17.   Bring entrepreneurial center out to local areas.

18.   Focus on mobile jobs.

19.   Find businesses that focus on water creation and water.

20.   Provide a small business set aside in government procurement (Valencia CC, UCF and GOAA are doing this, called Developing Business Set Aside).

21.   Remove restrictions on signage.

22.   Boast of school district successes.

23.   Brand and provide an identity for the 429 corridor.

24.   Change philosophy of planning department to be more business friendly.

25.   Focus on primary businesses.

26.   Market area as a whole.

27.   Focus on regional partnerships.

28.   Invest in transportation infrastructure.

29.   Continue to encourage population growth.

30.   Repurpose (redevelop) existing uses and blighted areas.

31.   Allow online building permitting; work together on a regional permitting solution.

32.   Streamline grant process for nonprofit organizations.

Commissioner Parks thanked Mayor Jacobs and Commissioners Brummer and Boyd for inviting Lake County to be a part of the meeting.

Mayor Jacobs provided a wrap-up of the meeting.  She stressed the importance of partnerships within Central Florida.  She also stressed the need for a strategic plan for this area and mentioned that Orange County was creating a task force to evaluate how permitting could be streamlined.  She thanked all of the speakers and others in attendance.


The meeting adjourned at approximately 11:50 a.m.



jennifer hill, chairman