The Other Guy l To stimulate economic development, the county must encourage it | Columnists

With his term in sight, Randy Oliver made it clear in his resignation letter to County Commissioners that he planned to hire another Director of Economic Development.

Doing so will mark Oliver’s third time in the vacant post during his tenure as county administrator.

It also comes at a time when the board is considering changing the position largely due to what some perceive as ‘less than stellar results’.

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Chairman Ron Kitchen’s speech for the creation of an economic development board, chaired by a county commissioner and led by a newly hired manager and members of the public, particularly businessmen, has merit.

The new department would draft statutes, the budget would be formulated, and members would meet monthly.

But the problems with economic development over the past four to five years, or rather the lack of economic development, is what confuses the Council.

“I don’t know what the problem is,” Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said. “I think we have to identify what is going on.”

That’s because the county tried the same things, expecting different results. It is, as they say, the definition of insanity.

Problem #1 is easy to identify: it was never a priority.

Another critical factor is that the directors of economic development were not equipped with the right tools from the council to effectively attract light industry and other much-needed career jobs to Citrus County.

These tools include infrastructure plans, a vision for the future of Citrus County (which citizens will have the opportunity in March to help develop), and an updated comprehensive plan.

To say that the current plan is outdated is no understatement. The compensation plan, which began in 1983, was completed and approved in 1985. To put that into perspective, I was still in elementary school.

We also need to address the lack of adequate housing for the workforce. People get enraged if you mention affordable housing, like saying Lord Voldemort’s name. Friends, it’s high time to put aside fears of “affordability” and realize that it’s not as scary as it is made out to be.

We’re late. We must act quickly if we are to move our county forward. We don’t necessarily have to agree on the path, but the method by which we get there is important.

It’s time we provided the next qualified person for the role with the tools to do the job. Until county leaders tackle these issues, the next director of economic development will be lamented for having “less than stellar results”.

Jeff Bryan is editor of the Citrus County Chronicle. Contact him at jeff.bryan@chronicleonline.com or 352-564-2930.