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Economic Development Summit Cancelled Again as “Coalition of Cities” Revs Up

| July 14, 2011

Flagler County's Oscar-worthy economic development team.

If it’s a sense of urgency that Flagler County’s political and business leaders are trying to convey over getting the local economy moving again, they’re going about it in a strange way.

The sixth county-wide economic development summit scheduled for July 27 has been cancelled. Again. No new date was set.

The July 27 meeting was supposed to take place on June 15, one month after the fifth summit meeting. That meeting was cancelled when a proposal to restructure Enterprise Flagler, the public-private economic development partnership, excluded Bunnell and Flagler Beach, creating discord among summit participants. Those two cities have now started a coalition of their own. They’re holding their first meeting Friday.

The economic development summits were designed to project a sense of unity. They started strongly but lost participants–and buy-in–as they progressed, developing a more clannish than concerted approach along the way.

The July 27 meeting was scheduled for noon. But Palm Coast officials had told the county that it had a conflict: the city annually hosts a recognition lunch for school administrators. This year’s lunch falls on July 27.

“Could it have been held at 8 o’clock in the morning?” Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said of the economic summit. “Absolutely, and three and a half hours would have been ample. Could it have been held from 2 to 5 p.m.? Yup, that would have worked. I feel badly that Palm Coast is the cause to have postponed this again, and could we have rescheduled this school board administrator luncheon? I suppose we could have.” But, the mayor said, there are more than two dozen guests at Palm Coast’s lunch, with intricate schedules of their own.

Palm Coast isn’t the only reason the latest summit was cancelled. Summit participants, who include representatives from every local government, several business associations and several individual businesses, had also formed five working groups, each responsible for developing reports on where to take economic development, based on five strategic goals. Some of the working groups’ work may not be complete.

Meanwhile, more disarray may be resulting from various proposals since the last summit. One of Palm Coast’s proposals–Netts and the Palm Coast administration prefer to characterize the proposal as an “option”–is to end funding Palm Coast’s share of the funding for Enterprise Flagler, which amounts to just over $90,000, about the same amount the county contributes. Enterprise Flagler wants more money, not less. Garry Lubi, one of the group’s members, recommended at a recent meeting of the chamber of commerce’s business issues committee that Enterprise Flagler’s $235,000 budget be be increased. The county, facing another difficult budget season, is not likely to increase funding, not to float any kind of tax proposal that would raise money for the agency, or for economic development.

Palm Coast, for its part, considers itself in the economic development game on its own, now that it has a business assistance center and what it call ‘Prosperity 2021,” a blueprint for development for the next decade. The implicit message to the county and to Enterprise Flagler: “We’re already doing what you’re only talking about doing, and we’re doing it within our means.”

Netts isn’t ready to bail on Enterprise Flagler, but he’s still waiting for a plan. “It’s better that we have some cost estimates on what we agree we’re going to do and then look for appropriate funding,” Netts said. “That’s one issue that needs to be resolved. In the meantime, just because we’re not going to raise –fill in the blanks, $2 million, $3 million–just because we’re not ready to do that doesn’t mean we need to do nothing.”

Armando Martinez, the Bunnell city manager, initiated the idea of a coalition of cities when he felt that Enterprise Flagler was snubbing Bunnell and Flagler Beach. The coalition’s first meeting, he said, would be free-flowing, with a presentation by John Walsh, the Palm Coast Observer publisher–and a participant in the many summits–on economic development.

“My ultimate aim is for the city of Bunnell and all the cities in this community to work as a team and not work against each other when it comes to economic development,” Martinez said.

Netts, who leads the Flagler League of Cities, which includes Bunnell and Flagler Beach–the two cities were at the table in Wednesday’s quarterly meeting of the league–doesn’t quite buy it. “It’s divisive,” Netts said of Martinez’s coalition. “It emphasizes separation rather than unity, but everybody has to work through problems their own way. It’s not my style to tell somebody else what they should do.” Netts added: “Where does this go? If the outcome of their meeting is to create a small cities’ coalition, then you’ve got a small cities’ coalition, you’ve got a big city, you’ve got a county. Maybe what they are saying is what I’ve been saying sort of all along, that our needs are different, our desires are different, our aspirations are different, our goals are different, that maybe one size does not fit all.”

That has been Palm Coast’s most consistent message at the various summits–a message that explains why the county’s largest city has only nominally endorsed the summit’s unity theme while pursuing its own methods.

Martinez bristled at the notion of creating a divisive coalition. “The city of Palm Coast was invited to become a part of the coalition,” Martinez said, “and I don’t see how anything can be divisive when everybody is sitting down at the table. I think divisive is when some people are sitting at the table and others are excluded.”

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13 Responses for “Economic Development Summit Cancelled Again as “Coalition of Cities” Revs Up”

  1. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Only Kafka could do justice to this farce.

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Over 27,000 in rocket scientist consultant for zero ideas. Shame on the county commissioners for their wasteful initiative. I expect city to cut Enterprise Flagler’s fund and instead preserve 3 of our city workers jobs. With the other 100,000 for city economic development fund save 3 more city workers jobs.
    Invite professional retirees citizens to volunteer on city provided space, desk, phone and computer connection lines to research business with products we do not yet have here, like some light manufacturing, etc. Businesses locate mainly in the frozen north that can be attracted by our milder weather, our sports our beaches and Florida’s no income taxes among other magnets.
    Once these volunteers using their professional skills achieve a goal and convince an entity to move and hire here and all are in the payroll that successful volunteer should be honored with a financial reward and public recognition. These approach will cost minimal expenses on phone, and postage and not hundreds of thousands wasted in blunders..Get our retired German speaking professionals to formally contact under city guidelines Audi AG German Company and lure them to settle in Flagler County….Now!
    We do not need to pay the well connected elite over inflated salaries to achieve nothing.

  3. Bob Alex says:

    How can so many who lack experience, are ill-informed, are trying to make changes doing the very same things that they have done in the past, and/or have their own agendas, be expected to present an economic development initiative that actually works? It’s time to stop throwing money at people who have no clue, and find people who have a history of success in economic development to lead in this effort. In this economic climate, it definitely requires experience, and, certainly out-of-the box approaches to bring this effort to satisfactory conclusions.

  4. Layla says:

    Rather than paying consultants out of public funds, why don’t you have a meeting of the local small business owners and ask them what it is that makes it so difficult to do business in Palm Coast, in Florida? I think you will find it is overregulation. And if it is overregulation, spending all the money in the world on consultants won’t bring business to Palm Coast when the business you have is shutting down.

    Texas is providing 4 out of every 10 jobs being created in the United States and they are doing it because they are not overregulated. Texas has a business friendly climate.

    Listen to the business people already here, ask them. No company is going to be persuaded to move here when it is so much easier to move to states like Texas.

    Take a look at removing the negatives first.

  5. Joe says:

    6 months, 6 meetings and ZERO results!!!

  6. palmcoaster says:

    Thank you Layla:
    As a very hard working small businesses owner since 1988, that move itself to Florida with no other incentive than living and working in our yearly vacation land and enjoy residing water front, boating, water skiing, windsurfing, playing tennis and bringing our own income to hire locally, I sure appreciate your support. When I/we, mention the wealthy/rich or corporations we refer to the ones that work day in and day out to gain total control of our country ‘s government to lobby against our best interest.
    As a small business owner I didn’t ask or expected any tax payers funds or hand outs when we moved our businesses to Florida, like the big elite corporations that Enterprise, COC and these Economic D’s groups advocate for, all the time. Furthermore we the local small business owners have to endure often the outsourcing lobbied to just benefit the well connected here thru the COC and some of our local government buyers (one in the county gone already, Thank God) creating revenue and jobs in other states or counties and always under “bait bids” and missleading excuses. Contradicting this, our local community organizations and residents make it possible our survival in this harsh economic times when they buy in our stores or use our restaurants and sure I- we all thank them for that!
    We the local small business are who sustain our local jobs and tax revenue and sure use our own life savings to open shop and remain operating. Does anyone realize that newcomers like we are here, are who provide the jobs in our local bank branches when we bring all we own somewhere else and put in the bank? When we buy a home? When we open a shop. When we buy here our groceries, clothes cars and all we need in our daily lives? The above mentioned institutions are to be ashamed of themselves when they outsource, killing the local economy. Those are “our tax dollars” generated here and should be re-invested here “no matter who doesn’t get the graft”. My friends that invited us to get to know Palm Coast over 25 years ago and got us hooked on its beauty and attractions and Florida’s no income tax, should have been given a reward for doing so, as our family came here and created jobs for others as well as themselves with no pseudo economic development involvement or any need of taxpayers freebies
    I already gave ideas here, about what each local government and without spreading big bucks around on well connected elite salaries should do, to bring more job creating small businesses..Give it at try and see, may work and will cost nil tax payers dollars in comparison of the hundreds of thousands wasted now.
    Look at TDC 4% bed tax on tourist that use our hotels or other daily rental lodging and they hand out over $670,000 to the flashy COC appointed Ms Peggy Heiser plus her juicy salary and expenses to her fancy fam trips to attract tourist to Flagler….is she really those monies worth…? She doesn’t even reside in Flagler County but in Volusia. At this point I can tell that Mrs Gardner is doing a much better job as the city Event Coordinator attracting sports multitudes to spend their monies in Flagler County, than the COC Rep. does and Mrs, Gardner resides and spends in Flagler County! Follow the good example and use our government employees in our payroll already, to promote us. Also invite like I said our retired professionals to volunteer by the incentive of a reward and public recognition, when a goal is achieved and our local workers are hired and on the payroll of a newcomer small business. I am sure that our professional retirees would love to be volunteers involved in this goal and we have them even being multilingual as well.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Example of what other areas COC’s do, as to learn what is on reality going on with those local surviving businesses other than mailing questionnaires asking very confidential information like amount of salaries we pay etc. as done recently by COC here. I wonder how many businesses replied to that, answering sensitive request. How representative of the business community was that survey and or successful…? Probably a waste of members and taxpayers funds. COC VIP’s do it all while seating pretty in their plush offices, just showing us Who is Who, while their sell people visit us trying to sell us the $245 or more membership.
    About the only times businesses are visited in Flagler by COC…is when you are not a member so you buy it and become one, or sell them advertisement on their publications, that by the way are outsource as well. Sure Volusia County gets good revenue and jobs created by Flagler county tax payers.
    And please no envy here neither,as there is nothing to envy, just bare reality!

  8. Layla says:

    Palmcoaster: Wow, that was good. You need to run for office here.

    At the very least, this local government needs to fire their consultants and hold some open hearings here in Palm Coast and listen to the SMALL business owners. PUBLIC HEARINGS. Invite your state officials, the governor and TELL THEM DIRECTLY where you are fighting a losing battle. I believe they will attend. This is what your elected officials should be doing for you, not hiring outside consultants.

    Such a beautiful place should be a magnet for new business but it is not. I have asked many small business owners about the things that are hurting them and the answer is ALWAYS “overbearing regulations”. If you don’t believe me, ask them yourselves. It’s very enlighting. Business if being forced out, not attracted to Florida. You don’t need a highly paid consultant to tell you that, just ask them.

    If the City will not do it, then do it yourselves, invite the public and the newspapers. Ask a small fee from those attending to pay for the facility you use. Don’t wait for politicians to do it for you. Let’s fix this.

  9. Layla says:

    Palmcoaster: Was it something I said?????

  10. lawabidingcitizen says:

    Layla, there is an independent association of businesses supported by their members, it’s called the Chamber of Commerce.

    Palmcoaster, you’re right. How many local seafood and Italian restaurants will the two chain restaurants with their huge advertising budgets and their $$$ Off Coupons that recently opened at the Target mall put out of business while tax payer funded “economic development teams” crow about their great success in luring them to Flagler county. Ditto all the big box stores who’ve driven out the mom and pop stores where prices might have been a little higher, but where the service and know-how was priceless. The traffic, crime and dirt from all this “progress” stay, but few of the employees are local and the vast percentage of profits are sent elsewhere.

    Vote out all incumbents at every level of government. It’s the only way to get their attention.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Yes Layla there is that business members association…like you said is the COC (Chamber Of Commerce) supported by about $245 membership fee and fundraising events. It should be called COO (Chamber Of Outsourcing). Of about 9,000 businesses in this county only 10% or less are their members. Does it tell you something?
    But the powers that be…like House Representative Republican John Mica caters to the elite only.
    He only has time to briefly come by Flagler County and gather the elite among others the COC Chairman Dough Baxter local business unrepresentative and heads of the local government in an exclusive luncheon to get fill in some distorted data…about economic development. Mr.Mica is too busy to come here and hold an open forum for the small businesses and find out what is really going on.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    Economic Development so much advocated and costly to the tax payers and inefficient to say the least, continuo to be handled by the same failing institutions and the same inept elite all the time. Those are; FC COC, FC Enterprise, TDC and a long list of well connected and self appointed representatives of about 800 only local businesses (of the total + – 9,000 ) that have shown so far only pathetic failure.
    Now we are invited to an Enterprise breakfast 7/26 where Commissioner Milissa Holland and Peggy Heiser (COC TDC appointed and handsomely paid) will talk about the wonders and job creation that tourism can bring to us all, of course if we attract them to stay in Flagler…something that we all, already know. TDC (Tourism Development Council is each Florida County Agency that receives the 4% (in Flagler) bed tax charged by daily stays rentals in hotels, hostels and bead and breakfast,etc, in order to be utilized for advertisement, capital improvements and other investments to attract tourism to these counties. In few words is a public tax funded agency. Lately TDC has allocated to Volusia County resident and TDC VP of tourism Development Peggy Heiser about $670.000 budget to do her job. I just started some research and find out that for one….Heiser is listed as a contributing writer of the local “Flagler Parent Magazine”, there is a Volusia edition as well.
    Now what calls my attention is that this publication is “privately owned” by Charlene Michaux of Brady Publishing with a Palm Coast business area address. Also when I see the TDC logo imprinted under the incorrect line of “Proud Members of” , along with the COC’s logos of our local one and the Volusia COC’s, actually trying to justify incorrectly the real reason for the TDC logo shown in the magazine that, if following the TDC policy and guidelines,
    is a formal requirement to exhibit TDC logo when receiving their grant to the entity. Then my point is, why not being the Parent Magazine a tourist industry publication and as private business, receives a TDC Grant and if so for how much? Also are their contributing writers like Peggy Heiser listed, paid employees or pro bono? If paid, I could see a serious conflict of interest. Does the Volusia TDC also contributes as the Flagler County one to this private business? As I do not see their logo listed incorrectly under Proud Members of. TDC Volusia generates 5 times or more what the Flagler counter part does.
    Most of our Non Profit all volunteer operated community arts and historical Flagler County organizations are denied TDC grants by the 9 members board, on the basis and questioning of how many hotel rooms their event will sell. Something always very hard to achieve. Example of TDC board meeting held in 2010
    Can anyone tell us how many hotel beds the Parent Magazine generates, but with real facts please. Or is just the elite connections at work, while gifting 4% tax payers funds to some private enterprise for profit and also enjoying “probably free advertisement in the TDC web site as well on their venture add rates?
    Also all the printed media mentioned by COC Doug Baxter provided to Pegy Heiser VP of TDC utilized for distribution and funded by the 4% bed tax collected by our Flagler County hospitality (hotels etc) businesses, mentioned by Baxter in the meeting shown above for 20,000 units, plus others not mentioned are produced elsewhere “outsource” out of this county, as usual creating jobs and wealth elsewhere.
    Economic Development should be started by putting the horse in front of the carriage and not the other way around as so far until now. Should the example be from inside our government entities spending our local generated tax revenues in our local manufacturing small businesses and suppliers that are the real contributors to the local economies.
    When Commissioner Barbara Revels was elected about 2 years ago or so, she comply with her promise in the campaign trail and called a meeting of all the local businesses and all the government buyers trying promote change of policy regarding local suppliers and better chances to be assigned more government contracts. There we learned why we are not given even a chance in the largest contracts assigned as the county utilizes and outsource Internet bid contractor which guidelines I enclose. Now we learn that in order to just get a copy of the bid details on the Internet we have to pay $5 each…and there is a 1% charge of the grand total if we are granted the contract never mind the formalities and paperwork and the membership cost. Why do we have to pay to see a bid requirement, for a contract funded by our taxes, while forced to pay a profiteering Internet provider outside this county? And if we do not get the bid the $5 are not refundable of course. These hand picked by our county chief buyer make the easy $$$ don’t they.? While destroying our economic development .Contractors and small businesses owners present in Revels meeting complained that they never were granted a bid contract they applied to OnVia/OnstaronDemand. That was a big waste of their time and $$ to got thru them and trying to deal with the county buyers directly received unwelcome restrictions to deter their bids copy requested..An these are for the large bids over $25,000 shown there only. The many small bids have another even more difficult policy to open as are awarded with less restrictions for the buyers.
    In the following link of you will be able to see in the cases that is disclosed that most Flagler County and Bunnell government contracts are granted to outside the county contractors. From lawyers to pavement companies, to any other services, If and When …they show the beneficiary and the contract $$$ total awarded. Check the link “awarded bids” to find out. You will see how county commissioners DO NOT promote economic development in reality…Our Americans tax revenue is the magnet for profiting for whom should not, while creating jobs and wealth elsewhere.
    I did find a bid granted to a local Hammock Dunes CB Paving operating from a private residence, for about $26,000 contract.
    What about a guideline that should be in place that bid applicants to be eligible should be located in a physical business store?
    That will also add more fair competition generating more revenue for office space for rent, occupational license and insurance coverage. I am still wondering how come Hammock Dunes or Hammock Beach HOA’s were CB payment address is shown approves a business in a non commercial location? What few dollars savings in a contract, as are always some of the excuses to outsource, when promotes one more displaced worker collecting unemployment insurance and not generating sales locally?
    I saw exceptionally a bid awarded to a good local company that utilizes local workers, machine and office space and is Cline. Congratulations!
    Economic development needs to be placed in the correct path, no with pricey consultants or hand outs to highly compensated elite, of our hard earned taxes. Just simply using common sense and ask our community real businesses “not their so called leaders” how to go about it!

  13. Layla says:

    Great information, Palmcoaster. You know your stuff. We need you on the Council. Seriously, ever thought of running?

    I was referring to state politicans. FYI, if any of this is TARP money, there is a provision in the law that all contracts must go to unions, I think. That is harmful to small communities. All it does is push work to one segment of the population, even in the bigger cities. And it may also be the reason those “shovel ready” projects never materialized. Overregulation just might be the cause. Don’t know.

    What I was talking about are state regulations. Everyone I have ever spoken to with a small business here tells me the state regs re expansion or hiring more employees make it nearly impossible for the small business guy to conform to, that unless you have a lot of money it just is not worth it. Also the problem here seems to be excessively high rents in some areas. The shopping center at Palm Harbor has this problem and many have left.

    While it is the Chamber’s purpose to bring in more business, it appears more needs to be done to support those already here, not to grow the Chamber or Enterprise Flagler. Elected officials should be asking, “What can we do to make it easier for you to do business in the state of Florida?” “Are there any regulations that are cumbersome, could be streamlined or eliminated altogether?”

    We shouldn’t have to be paying tax dollars to bring business to Palm Coast, or to Florida. We should be easing the bureaucratic process that is driving it away. It shouldn’t cost you a membership fee to organize business. Neither should it cost you more tax dollars. And your elected officials should be seeking you out and stay in touch with you on a regular basis. This is what I have seen in other communities.

    I suspect overregulation is causing much of the problem, but I don’t know. You as a small business owner must continue to speak out, even if it is only among other small business owners. And if Mica, or Proctor or Thrasher cannot attend, invite their staff to participate. They should be doing this on a regular basis. This is their job.

    When small business prospers, the community prospers.

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