Florida studies future growth

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By David Davis

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in an occasional series in which we hope to learn more about Levy County and how prepared it is to meet the future.

About 30 people attended the community meeting May 26 to participate in the Florida 2030 Project at Haven Hospice. The event was hosted by the Greater Chiefland Area Chamber of Commerce.

Scott Koons, executive director of the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and a member of the board of trustees of the Florida Chamber Foundation, the research and planning arm of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the foundation conducts statewide research every 10 years.

However, this is the first time the foundation has gone into each county to conduct the research. They have been to the counties in the south and central areas of the state and are finishing in the north.

“This is going to be a conversation. I’m going to talk first about the trends, conditions and forecasts for the future of Florida and then I want to hear from your perspective about the opportunities and perspectives here in Levy County,” Koons said.

The stated premise of the project is: Florida’s long-term solutions require coordinating of the state’s 67 counties under free-enterprise principles that help the state manage 6 million more residents and grow 2 million more jobs by 2030.

The goal of the two-year program is: to prepare for continued growth and to ensure Florida remains successful. To remain successful, the Florida Chamber Foundation is leading the charge to write the blueprint for Florida’s future through Florida 2030, a two-year research program with the goal of stimulating strategic thinking about Florida’s future by engaging business and community leaders in each of Florida’s 67 counties.

The 2030 Project wants to identify key trends and the factors that can drive local economies. Florida has supplanted New York as third most populous state in the nation, following only California and Texas.

“The hope is that through this effort and working together, we can do a little better job of putting those next 6 million residents on the ground and [lessen] their impacts on communities and the environment, and [create] a [more] positive impact on the economy than we did with the last 6 million,” he said.

The town hall platform served to get feedback from local businesses as well as the civil servants. A report is expected to be issued in spring 2018 based on responses during the town halls.

Koons asked the audience to participate in the meeting interactively via smartphones. He asked a series of questions on the six pillars of a sound economy are trending in Levy County. The answers were displayed in real time in percentages.

“Sometime ago, the Florida Chamber Foundation identified six pillars for securing Florida’s future economy. This is a framework or organization on how to think about an economy,” he said.

The six pillars are talent supply and education, innovation and economic development, infrastructure and growth leadership, business climate and competitiveness, civic and government systems, and quality of life and quality places.

The Florida Chamber has been using the six pillars since the early 2000s to plan for Florida’s future economy, as well as the Florida Department of Equal Opportunity and the 10 regional councils around the state.

“So, we have the private sector through the Florida Chamber Foundation, the state-public sector through the Florida Department of Equal Opportunity, and regions and communities across the state through the regional planning councils all speaking the same language looking at Florida’s future economy,” he said.