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Flagler’s Economic Development Plans In the Air as County-Wide Summit Is Cancelled

| June 13, 2011

Armando Martinez, back when he had a seat at the economic-development table. County Administrator Craig Coffey, a strong Martinez ally, is nearby. (© FlaglerLive)

Signaling a mixture of disarray, unfinished work and divisive fall-out from major changes in the works, the sixth county-wide economic development summit, scheduled for Wednesday, was cancelled today. A new date hasn’t been set. The county administration was hoping to re-schedule the summit for late July, but no date is set.

The cancellation was not unexpected: word of it began to filter out after the executive board of Enterprise Flagler, the public-private economic development partnership, voted to restructure itself and submit an ambitious plan that would recast the organization into the county’s economic-development right hand, but to the exclusion of Flagler Beach and Bunnell, and to the exclusion of many former private members of the organization.

Enterprise Flagler President David Ottati or Enterprise Flagler representatives were to unveil those recommendations at the summit. Instead, the recommendations, first proposed in a controversial closed-door meeting of the organization earlier this month, triggered bitter dissents from Bunnell and Flagler Beach governments. Meeting participants were told not to speak of the meeting’s substance. They did anyway. (FlaglerLive obtained a copy of Ottati’s presentation to the board.) Both governments were excluded from Enterprise Flagler’s restructuring, while Palm Coast and the county were given three seats each to fill with their nominees on the 12-member board.

Summit participants assigned Enterprise Flagler on May 13 the task of figuring out who would lead the economic development effort, and how. Ottati, who’s also the CEO of Florida Hospital Flagler, carried out the assignment swiftly. But he did so as if in an ideal world of his creation, rather than in the less than ideal marsh of competing interests and political egos, and of Enterprise Flagler’s own unflattering past, which sows suspicion.

Ottati was prescient in an interview last month, granted while he was in the middle of crafting his plan and speaking with a lot of people about it. “I try to be fairly straight-forward and candid,” Ottati said. “I know there’s other people that I work with—not in my organization here but in other organizations—that are much more politically savvy as they talk through things, because it’s just the way it is. I hope I don’t have to get there. I hope I can just be candid and open, straight discussions, because I think it’s better that way for everyone. You can accomplish a lot more that way. So if I talk to any commissioners, city person, I just want to tell them, tell me what you think. Don’t sugar-layer. Just tell me truly what you think, not what’s going to be printed anywhere, just tell me what you think. I just want to know because I don’t want to sit back, I don’t want to engineer a plan and then start pulling away from it because it doesn’t have stuff that they wanted, and unfortunately I don’t read well between the lines.”

The cancellation notice, sent out Monday afternoon. Click on the image for larger view.

One person he didn’t speak to told him precisely what he thought. Appearing before the Flagler Beach City Commission last week, Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez angrily denounced the Enterprise Flagler proposal and the manner in which it was reached. He asked Flagler Beach to join Bunnell in a “coalition of cities” to oppose any plan that would exclude the two cities from a seat at the economic development table. And Flagler Beach city commissioners shared their own anger over what they saw as a turnabout, from a string of summits where unity of voice and purpose was prized to what they saw as an exclusionary plan creating an exclusive club of decision-makers.

Alan Peterson, chairman of the county commission, said Monday afternoon that Enterprise Flagler proposal didn’t enter into the cancellation of the meeting at all. “This was a decision strictly prior to it, prior to any knowledge that we had of how Enterprise Flalger wanted to restructure,” Peterson said, repeating the county’s administration’s explanation of the cancellation: the committees working on “strategic” plans needed more time. (While at least two committees are ready, others needed more time. The committee focusing on customer service, for example, needed a couple more weeks, according to Jason DeLorenzo, a member of the committee.)

But Peterson went on: “I’m not even sure that Enterprise Flagler should even be part of the final solution. If we’re going to have any kind of a common pool, common goals for an organization, as opposed to each municipality doing what it feels is doing is best for its own interest, then I think we need to think long and hard what that organization should be.” That, in essence, is what Enterprise Flagler thought it was doing when it restructured, in preparation of submitting its plan to the broader countywide representatives.

Peterson termed the Enterprise Flagler reorganization “a step in the right direction, or one alternative,” but, he added, “it’s my understanding that today Enterprise Flagler is significantly financed by the public sector, not the private sector, so I don’t care what the past was, I’m looking at the present, and I do think that it’s important that we bring some people with experience into the decision making process. We certainly do not have a very good track record.” Palm Coast and the county finance 80 percent of Enterprise Flagler’s $230,000 budget. The private sector kicks in just $50,000.

David Ottati (© FlaglerLive)

The Enterprise Flagler plan as presented by Ottati earlier this month underscored “partnership with local governments,” among other goals in its mission statement. It recommends hiring a CEO and creating a funding task force that would work on convincing local governments to significantly increase their contributions to the organization, but without raising taxes. The five committees working in strategic economic development goals, now filled by volunteers would transition to paid leaders, and have no more than seven members each. Enterprise Flagler’s structure itself would eliminate its two boards, combining its executive board of eight with its general board of 22 and reducing the total membership to 12. (One option, combining Enterprise Flagler’s board with the chamber of commerce, was not taken up.) Three members would be picked by the county, three by Palm Coast, and six would come from the private sector, though the plan leaves the manner of their appointment unclear.

Enterprise Flagler’s name would be changed, presumably to get away from the negative connotations of the organization. And the new organization would—unlike Enterprise Flagler today—have contracts with Palm Coast and the county by Aug. 15, “with clearly defined deliverables” and “regular progress reports.” The organization would also seek out members, starting with a $1,000 to $2,999 bracket (the “booster division”) all the way up to a “platinum division,” for members contributing $20,000 or more. Transparency would be prized: meeting would be public, quarterly reports would be provided, financial reports and minutes of meetings included, starting on Aug. 15. Greg Rawls, the Enterprise Flagler executive in charge now, would be in charge of those tasks.

County Commissioner Milissa Holland, who’d not been pleased at the end of the last summit, when Enterprise Flagler was put in charge of recommending a new economic development structure, has subsequently been willing to give Ottati’s new direction a hearing, without fully endorsing its every detail, such as the alienation of the smaller cities. She welcomed Wednesday’s cancellation of the summit in light of recent developments. Referring to Ottati, who’s been on vacation in Latin America, she said: “I’d like to hear his response to the conversations that happened at Flagler Beach before we sit through another half a day of summitry.”

Ottati himself had said earlier this month he wasn’t much for long and unproductive meetings. “Two meetings, make a decision, move forward,” is how he described his style. “So that’s some of the inner struggles I’m not used to. Either which way. In the next two or three months, we’ll be able to tell whether or not this is going to go anywhere if we need to create something different.” His sense was that enough people want the change, and he was recommending a version of it. “Trying to read between the lines, I don’t do this,” he said. “Just tell me. If I’ve got 10 people saying can it, then let’s call it a day, let’s go home and can it.”

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9 Responses for “Flagler’s Economic Development Plans In the Air as County-Wide Summit Is Cancelled”

  1. Larry says:

    Move on with the plan. You can do it.

  2. Justice for All says:

    What plan?! Only reorganization was proposed. Talk about a tax supported group – this can’t even be called an agency. And zero accountability. A perfect disaster. Stop asking for tax payer money.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Finally the right decision. No more waste of entire days of useless meetings planning and demanding which better way to get more out of the depleted pockets of the taxpayers in this county.
    You want economic development? …attract and invite private small businesses to move to this county use the IT officers already on the payroll in the county and cities. Take them off the historical fancy televised shows and put them to the Internet and phones to locate those businesses and bring them here other than so much of showing the “who is who” in a county with 16.5 unemployment plagued with thousands of foreclosed vacant homes and malls. Other than planning to get $6,000,000 more out of us to build more structures to attract businesses ignoring the many vacant ones and increase the number of VIP’s milking those funds. We were just a pathetic news in the Washington Post while our officials keep on wasting our taxes and want even and planning for even higher taxes. What are you guys all thinking about? Stop hiring consultants that we can’t afford or what do we pay our administrators for?. .

  4. mara says:

    How can you plan for economic development in a given area if two cities’ worth of representatives in that area are left out of the process?

    Something really stinks about this.

  5. Joe says:

    You can call a duck a fish but in the end it will still be a duck, no public/private anything please. Rawls and Enterprise Flagler must go,

  6. lawabidingcitizen says:

    We’d save a bundle if we got rid of all county and city employees being paid by taxpayers to do economic development and “event” planning, killed dead all the CRA’s and stopped funding tourist agencies, scenic highways and byways and groups like Enterprise Flagler.

    This area has been sold as a retirement community and those of us who came here because we wanted a nice, quiet place to spend our retirement dollars are getting fed up by all the traffic and derelict commercial areas, crowds at the beach

  7. SAW says:

    Once again, if you truly want to save tax payer money and get our county back on track, cut support and or funding, of these many tax money grabbers/spenders etc. that continue coming out of the woodwork to blow your money on their poorly thought out schemes.

    We don’t need the Enterprise Flagler, the Chamber, CRA, Scenic Highway or any of the other multitude of groups finding more ways to waste our money on things we don’t want .

    This is all about these busy bodies making names and positions for themselves, at your expense. We the tax payers need to keep it simple, at present, the more groups that become involved, the more of our tax money get’s wasted.

    Things were much better before these meddlers arrived, and started “directing” our county, since we must pay taxes, let the county and the cities say how that money is spent we do not need (sub-groups) doing it ?

    If this was done, you would have much more accountability, and could then hold your commissioners feet to the fire on election day, for the poor choices made, far too many hands are currently in the pot.

    What part about our country being in dire straights, don’t you understand, wake up the party is over, and will be for some time ?

  8. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 3:42 PM
    Subject: Commercial Building in Palm Coast


    As you most probably are aware the Federal Trade Commission issued a ‘Consent Agreement’ C-2854 as REDRESS for we Palm Coast Pioneers and early Purchasers. (‘….. multi-purpose office building, suitable for ‘Tenants’…to attract new business /industry…’.)

    Therein it states:

    It is further ordered, That respondents shall provide or lawfully cause others to provide, not later than six (6) years after the srvice upon respondents of this order, each of the following:

    (1) a shopping center building or building located upon respondents’ land at Palm Coast with a total floor space of at least 40,000 square feet;

    (2) an office and research park area located upon respondents land at Palm Coast, to consisst of at least 40 acres, which shall include appropriate roads, water lines, sewers and landscaping suitable for possible construction of office buildings or research facilities;

    (3) a multi-purpose office structure located within the office and research part area referred to in (2) herein, which shall have a total floor space of at least 5,000 square feet.


    Can you please tell us WHICH is the multi-purpose office structure located in Pine Lakes Industrial Park required to be built by ITT as redress for us and of course to benefit all future residents of Flagler County?

    Thank you very much for your efforts.

    Warm regards to all,


    —– Original Message —–
    From: Bxxxx Fxxxxxx
    Sent: Thursday, September 09, 2010 3:27 PM
    Subject: RE: Commercial Building in Palm Coast

    The former City Hall was built in 1985. You can use our website for more details on this property as it may be the one you are looking for. At, you can search by address and use 2 Commerce Boulevard. It would probably be best if you just put in 2 Commerce. It should come up for you using that address.

    If you have any further questions, please let me know.

    Thank you,

  9. FlaglerResident says:

    Consumer confidence, none.

    After having contributed over $1,500,000 plus of our tax monies in the failing, un-organized, continually reinventing, Enterprise Flagler, maybe Alan Peterson has seen the light. This public/private partnership managed and expensed on the back of the tax payers must go as we know it. In fact, it is time for the board and President to step down and let the elected officials of the cities and county reorganize the program. Accountability is a must and should it be determined we need public at large to keep our elected in check then each municipality should vote in one member from its district to make up a board of 12, no more. If the elected officials are going to continue to support this program with our tax monies then they must be accountable, they must be elected to the new EF board. The failure of this organization rest on the shoulders of our elected officials.

    Future funding of this organization should not be increased to accommodate more loose change. The current budget is worthy of hiring an executive well versed and credible in the promotion of economic development to be managed at the pleasure of the new board. The current leadership and volunteer EF board, noble of their cause, are not experts in economic planning and therefore are not qualified to steer our future. All municipalities should share in the expense of the organization proportionate to their population with the County’s portion pulling much of the weight. Only once this organization has been redeveloped and proven its strength should any additional funding be considered. There are too many things we haven’t done that requires little to no additional monies that would reach a long way in our local community. Just ask the City of Palm Coast what actions they have taken in recent months without raising additional tax monies. Now,, go ask Flagler County what actions they have taken to invest the $800,000 war chest they have in reserves for economic development, what are you waiting on!

    Additional funding of the organization must become a part of our general fund budget and not a new taxing authority. Government must get its own house in order if it wants to fund economic growth and not a further burden on the tax payers. We know there is fat in the government budget and you will just have to look harder to find economic development proceeds as we all have done in our businesses and personal households. It is the responsibility of the elected officials to find the monies from within and not to burden this community with additional taxes even if it means we have to do with less government. Larger government isn’t the way to go, a 1/2 cent sales tax increases the size of our government by an additional 5%. Who needs bigger government, the administration?

    Flagler County, after having reviewed the future course of action and if you determine that Enterprise Flagler is the economic engine of the future, then spend the $800,000 plus you have in reserves for economic development before asking the tax payers to bail out poor planning on the governments part to budget to accommodate a credible long term economic development strategy. While these failures are not reflective in whole to the current boards and administration it is your duty to correct the problem. If we have not budgeted properly for economic growth, then it is the responsibility of the elected leadership of the community and the administration, not the citizens. Further investment in economic growth should only come if warranted.

    However the elected officials decide to move forward with Enterprise Flagler’s destiny you have to ask yourself one thing, for whom is this organization really for? It has been very clear the City of Palm Coast doesn’t need it as it continues to develop its own plans and establish its own agenda. Flagler County had an Economic Development Committee and an Industrial Development Authority that was never utilized to its full extent, that leaves in tow the smaller cities whom could benefit greatly on the shirttail of its big brothers, Palm Coast and Flagler County.

    What were we thinking?

    Concerned Business Thinker

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