EDC meeting

Jackson County Economic Development Committee member Sonny Davis, center, passes along copies of a fact sheet presented at Monday’s meeting of that board.

The Jackson County Economic Development Committee met Monday at Opportunity Florida’s Marianna headquarters in the East Rim business center.

The committee authorized Executive Director Greg Miller to spend a portion of a $30,000 Gulf Power grant to hire a new company to run, but first update, the committee’s website and its logo. The company chosen will be asked to pay special attention to highlighting on the website the Endeavor property, formerly best known as the site of the Dozier School for Boys.

JCEDC will retain the final approval power on the product, but the committee is seeking extra help from non-JCEDC experts in conveying to the company what’s needed in the website update.

The project has led to the first instance of the committee inviting non-committee members into a process of the body: The proposed update will have input from a team comprised not only of JCEDC members, but also some local individuals who are not part of that body but have expertise in marketing and are website savvy.

Committee inviting input of others on marketing

And the JCEDC also authorized Miller to create a standing sub-committee which will be made up of both JCEDC members and individuals outside the organization who will be focused on marketing issues for the JCEDC. The make-up of that subgroup would be decided after this first combination group handles the initial stages of the JCDC website update.

It will be the organization’s first subcommittee that involves individuals not on JCEDC. Miller said he felt it was generally important to involve others in the committee’s mission of improving the local economy, and that he will tap into the community for some people with marketing savvy to serve on the initial and permanent subgroups. He did not name anyone he had in mind and it wasn’t clear if he had someone tapped or would be looking for the individuals going forward.

Endeavor will be a key website presence

With the old Dozier school long-closed, the state ultimately handed the property over to the local government, which plans to repurpose it as a hub of economic development. Committee member Jim Peacock, who is also a Jackson County Commissioner, said he felt that Endeavor should be a big element on the JCEDC website and that the property should be highlighted with hopes of making it a worldwide presence. Some other committee members echoed agreement with the sentiment.

At the JCEDC meeting, some board members made clear that re-tooling the website so soon after it was last modified made little sense without the Endeavor focus coming into play as a key element. Miller said the update is also necessary so that the website will be more specifically geared to attract site-selectors. Those individuals or teams often guide big businesses to various potential locations based in part on community assets such as shovel-ready sites and many other factors in the life of a community.

Currently, the website is being run for a single flat fee, but Miller says he’s talked to four potential website managing outfits about the possibility of engaging to run and update the website going forward in a more robust manner, as well as managing the committee’s social media sites.

Some or all of the money for this service, at least initially, would come from the Gulf Power grant and the annual cost could be paid two years in advance, Miller said, making it possible for the Gulf Power funds to have an effect far into the future.

Updating and ongoing management of the website and email-management, along with management of the committee’s social media sites would cost in the neighborhood of $2,500 to $3,000 annually, based on the estimates Miller received. The company selected for the job would also be responsible for the committee’s social media management.

‘Fast Facts’ on business in the works

At the Monday meeting, JCEDC members also authorized Miller to spend up to $4,000 to have a consultant create a sheet of business-related facts about Jackson County similar to the one he had created regarding key demographics, and which he presented to the board that night. It will be embedded in the website when it’s done.

The existing two-sided sheet presented Monday contained fast facts about the county’s racial make-up, its educational system, population comparisons to other nearby counties, a regional map, climate, geographical data, distance to area airports, recreational features, facts on the educational system and students’ academic performance scores on the ACT, breakdowns on the cost of living as compared to national and regional averages, and more.

New chairman named, policy subcommittee formed

Miller also gained permission on Monday to create an interior subcommittee to review and potentially amend JCEDC policies and/or manuals for accounting, financials in general, and employee matters. Committee members Tiffany Garling, Christy Andreasen, Pete Beloat and Darwin Gilmore agreed to serve on it, with Gilmore as chairman of that team.

In fact, Gilmore gained another committee job that evening as well. The committee also named him the JCEDC chairman at large, to replace the current chairman Gene Wright, who has some medical issues that would have made it difficult for him to serve in that role going forward for some time.

Business prospects being pursued

The board also briefly viewed a project sheet Miller had generated to bring the committee up to speed about some code-named business prospects he’s been courting across a wide range of industries, businesses in fields such as manufacturing, distribution and more. Miller did not discuss any of the prospects, but showed a chart-summary of his efforts on a projection screen.

Executive session held

The committee also met in executive session after the public meeting to evaluate Miller’s performance to date in his role. That review was not open to the public. Although that meeting took place after the board’s regular session, the public meeting was also preceded by a closed gathering of a few board members before 5:30 p.m. The public was not allowed to sit in, and its purpose was not disclosed in the regular session. The board’s next regular meeting is set for June 24 at 5:30 p.m.

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