There may be 14 million job seekers around the country and a 14 percent unemployment rate in Flagler County. But Flagler’s newly created jobs council, which had to extend the application deadline to get its own eight seats filled in October, is now having trouble getting qualified candidates for the council’s top executive job to make it through to the live interview round in early January.
Some 63 people originally applied for the executive job, salaried at more or less $100,000. The council short-listed eight of those for phone interviews last week. Two candidates dropped out before getting dialed, one of them supposedly because of “negative” press on economic development in the county. A candidate was substituted in for one of the two. The council narrowed down the list to five, who are to be invited for 48 hours in Flagler the first week of January, including in-person interviews with the council. On Wednesday, the six of the nine council members present at their latest meeting learned that two more candidates had dropped out—Peter Tokar III and Robert Barnes.
“In some of the discussions that Joe has had with them,” Barbara Revels, who chairs the jobs council, said, referring to Joe Mayer, the county’s human resources director, “there seems to be a recurring theme that from what candidates have read about Flagler County is that, I guess they’re slightly worried that our expectations are rather high, so that we need to think about the fact that it is going to take us a while to get up and running, but I guess a new hire is worried that they would be expected to come in here and produce 200 jobs in the first 12 months that they were here and they wouldn’t want to start off that way.”
In a proposal to the Flagler County Commission based on the council’s existing structure and budget, Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey had projected “some success expected” from the effort’s annual $410,000 budget, defining that success as 600 jobs in the first three years, or 200 jobs a year. Coffey was projecting 2,000 new jobs in three years only if the effort was backed by an annual budget of $1.3 million.
The Achilles’ heel of government-led economic development efforts is measurable job creation, especially when compared to the tax dollars at work, supporting the economic development bureaucracy—in this case, the $410,000 a year, half of which would support salaries. The council has yet to set out a clear strategic vision—what kind of jobs it’s seeking, by which time it’s proposing to produce them—but there’s no dispute that its existence is predicated overwhelmingly on job creation, and relatively soon.
It may appear ironic that candidates applying for an economic development job would be reluctant to take on a job where their primary expectation is to create jobs, as opposed to, say, flashy reports about job prospects and surveys of what’s already known. On the other hand, several of the candidates interviewed by phone last week made issue of the other recurring theme of those interviews when they asked pointed questions about the circumstances surrounding the dissolution of Enterprise Flagler, the previous council responsible for economic development, and the difference between Enterprise Flagler (a decade-old public-private venture with few accomplishments) and this new, entirely county government-led jobs council.
Revels and other county officials have been striving to project a positive, unified front on economic development. But the last 20 months or so, going back to a badly planned and politically unsupported effort by Enterprise Flagler to levy a property tax for economic development in 2010, have been defined more bv dysfunction, rivalries between Palm Coast and the county, and only small-bore achievements in terms of concrete economic development initiatives than clear-eyed unity. Lip service aside, the county’s jobs council, in fact, is operating separately from Palm Coast’s own economic development infrastructure, with a separate budget, a separate administration and vastly separate expectations. Candidates for the council’s executive job, in sum, have reasons to be leery of stepping into the fray, particularly at a time when other forces beyond their control—Flagler County’s broader economic outlook—are barely showing signs of improvement.
“And then there may be others that we were going to interview that say hey, I’m here for the task, I’m ready,” Revels said. “I know we’re ready. So we’ll just keep pressing on.”
“If they’re not willing to try for that 200 jobs in the first 12 months, they’re probably not the ones we want anyway,” Joseph Marotti, one of the council members, said.
“We’ll certainly keep thinking that way,” Revels said.
For those last-three standing candidates—Helga van Eckert, Bruce Register and Chris Clifton—the schedule goes this way, assuming they’ll stick around for it: the county will put them up at the Hammock Beach Resort on January 4. The next day, they’ll be bused to the county government building in Bunnell for a 9 a.m. meeting with the jobs council. Each of the three will make a five to seven-minute presentation as to why he or she wants the job. All the proceedings are, of course, open to the public, and will presumably be televised.
The council will then break up into three groups of three members each for lengthier face-to-face interviews, which are also open to the public, and will be carried out on the third floor of the government building, in the financial services conference room, the engineering conference room, and the administration conference room. “Each group,” Mayer said, “will have a series of questions that they will ask the candidates, one is general management questions, group two is prospecting and lead generation, and the third group is economic development type background questions.”
Meanwhile the administration will conduct fingerprinting background checks on the candidates. Later in the day the candidates will be given a tour of the Emergency Operations Center in an attempt to impress them. “I believe that’s important because they’re coming from an area not from around here, not all of them are familiar with our area,” Mayer said, “and we want to show them that we do have state of the art facilities, and we are in fact the leader in some areas, especially emergency management. They come and take a tour of this EOC, they’ll be impressed.”
From 6 to 8 p.m., the candidates will take part in a meet-and-greet at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce at 20 Airport Road. The following day, they’ll have a tour of the county for two to three hours, while the jobs council itself reconvenes to decide whether to hire one of the three or to re-open the search for an executive.
Johnny Taxpayer says
why the long drawn out dog and pony show? Of what possible value does the taxpayer get, but parading prospective economic development candidates around the EOC or any other government facility for that manner? The interview process should boil down to two questions, and two questions only. 1) Show us where you’ve had actual measurable success attracting or expanding jobs to an area and 2) Explain how you’ll be successful doing that in Flagler County.
Me thinks perhaps you have hit upon why we have no jobs here.
How many companies, commercial enterprises have we turned AWAY from here during the development of Palm Coast?
If we spent a fraction of this money recruiting these companies instead of forcing them out because of signage and other issues, we’d have more jobs.
Could it be that it is our own mentality that is keeping us down? Could it be that it is because we are all so lazy and comfortable here we simply don’t care?
Could this be expressed in only about 5,000 bothering to vote in each election?
Could that be why we have one of the most expensive City Managers in the country and a council and commission that “outsource” their responsibilities to economic committees instead of doing what other locally elected bodies do?
We need a CEO! says
I still remember Mary D’s screeching voice at the economic submit ” we need a CEO!”. We the tax payers are going to pay this person $130,000 (with bennies) and this is our selection?
Bruce has just been a project manager no leadership/ executive experience
Chris is just a commercial realtor
Helga has executive experience, but no Florida experience and her experience is in a urban area not a rural/ suburban area. Development in NY and development if Fla are two different animals. Helga would have no connections or relations with anyone in Florida. And that is going to leave Flalger at a major disadvantage when competing with other Florida counties.
Really the only person worth considering is Helga, but at $130,000 you would think we would have more choices.
Why hasn’t Flagler attracted any people from Florida with experience?
This a is continual joke run by 8 jokers. They have to be realistic & see the reality of life & they just can’t do that.
Charles Ericksen, Jr says
Generally, when you are looking for a specific need employee, you go through a professional “head hunter”, who has a list of people in that specific business, who are well qualified and already vetted. The head hunter also charges a finders fee, if the person is hired. We chose to use newspaper/magazine ads this job, which means the County must do all the verification. There really is no one in the County except Greg Rawls from Enterprise Flagler, who can verify “skills and fluff” and he has not been active in the interviews. There is a real possibility that IF we hire, it maybe from “speaking and presentation skills”, and not ED skills and successes. I am also concerned, that Palm Coast has had very little if any visual interaction or input on the process, and since they have none and are already running a similar ED program of their doing, will signal no support by them. This alone could doom the project. The remaining candidates will be interesting to meet on 1/4. Let’s see if they really walk and talk ED…
My GAWD, this is how we elected our President!
will the three be taken through the mondex area and bunell’s area by the old hospital.
make sure that they talk to code enforcement and see all the vacant homes in the city mostly due to no jobs
I believe they need someone familiar with the area. They need to recruit a business owner, possibly from Flagler. Flagler County is not like all other cities. People in Flagler Beach don’t want to be turned into a Daytona Beach, for instance. People moved to this location for a reason. We need businesses, but we need to do it the right way. We need fresh, new, innovative thinking. It doesn’t sound like that’s what we will get with these candidates. We need to start over with candidates. But, instead, we’ll make do with whoever is left to take a job that will pay them way too much for the area. There is no reason this job should pay 6 figures. This isn’t New York. $50,000 should have been plenty to recruit the right person.
Johnny Taxpayer says
I don’t think their pay should be 100% salary to begin with… this is a sales job, the job is to sell Flagler County to businesses looking to expand. Where else, other than government is a salesman/woman paid a 6 figure salary regardless of how many sales they land? We should be paying about $40k base salary, with unlimited bonus potential based on actual results. I really don’t care if the economic development person makes $1million a year, if he/she earns it by bringing in $50 million in economic development. I’d much rather pay that person $1million based on results, than $100k just for showing up with a pulse.
We have no qualified people in our own County? How sad.
What in the world were these idiots expecting when they throw their hat into the ring for a Job Council and later find they’re expected to identify job opportunities.. What is this council looking for, somemore people like the county commission.. They can’t do it so they look for idiots like this to do it.. Why not forget the whole thing..
Barbara Revels has stated that if the candidate is not a good match for Flagler County that they will consider at the remaining candidates from the pool of 60. Let’s try to be optimistic and give it a chance before we condemn the process. Looking for answers and ways to solve the problems will be much more productive than sitting at home complaining. GET INVOLVED.
Lets keep demanging that our elected officials stop outsourcing at local level.
If we want more jobs we need to start our own campaign buying Made in America only, in as much as we can, because will be the beginning of the recovery of our jobs and our economy:
Holland or Revels would be an excellent candidate. Both know the County ,live here and enjoy what they do. I recommend they throw their hat in the ring.
If not use a highly qualified head hunter. I would rather see the commission interview head hunters first then let the head hunter do their job bringing a quality candidate.
You are wrong about needing someone to know the county. You need an experienced and proven person, someone with more commercial development experience.
You need to get the businesses here, the jobs will come.
Doug Chozianin says
Hire someone, as a start, who can keep the FAA Training Facility in Palm Coast and convince the FAA to keep contract workers running Flagler Airport.
Flagler County may lose hundreds of jobs if the FAA doesn’t change its intentions. (Flagler Couny unemployment will be 15%+.)
Way to go Obama. Mele Kalikimaka.
Is Rep. Mica doing ANYTHING for this county? Seriously.
A Foreigner says
One can do the right thing, the wrong thing, or nothing.
At the least this new council is not doing nothing.
The administrations stopped funding Enterprise Flagler after 11 years. By all appearances that was a blank check given to a private organization that did not have to account for its expenditures and had no contract with the funding governments.
I read that the county administrator has set a goal of 600 jobs in three years. If he and the others believe that this is a realistic goal then they are whistling Dixie. Was that type of mandate was ever given to Enterprise Flagler? Either produce or we don’t fund? In as much as the head of EF was at one time a co-worker of the county administrator I doubt any mandate was given. .
And don’t count a couple of corporate restaurants opening and each employing 90 part time workers, the majority who make less than minimum wage, that doesn’t count as a job paying a living wage.
Not one of these folks has said a word, or at least it has not been reported, about RETENTION. Retaining business is just as important if not more so than adding new business. There can be no growth if equilibrium can’t be maintained.
An economic developer should be part Marketeer and part sales professional. The ones who dropped out more than likely see the fallacy of the job creation goals.
Obviously the county administrator and his staff couldn’t produce business growth, neither could the $200,000 man in Palm Coast. But they have reported that there were ongoing secret negotiations with various companies.
Let’s say that one of you readers has 10 to 20 million dollars to invest in either manufacturing or creating new knowledge such as software development. Why would you invest in Palm Coast/Flagler County?
Low taxes, yes.
Low wage scales, yes
Rail station no
Bus station no
Work force, mfg yes new knowledge no ( software developers, engineers, high tech workers)
Business Friendly environment Flagler yes Palm Coast ????
@Foreigner; If I, a local resident taxpayer, would have just available only 5% of the 2 million you mention I sure will open a business right here and in Palm Coast for very important and different reasons that you have mentioned:
To pay fair wages. No, to low wages.
Fair wages scale, yes.
Airport about 30 miles, you can still fly international from “Daytona International Airport”.
Rail Station: for what…? we all drive cars.
Bus station…same as above. This county other than wasting millions buying Ginns Swamps and improving just a regional for small aircraft only, Flagler County Airport, should ask John Mica Chairman of the FDTC for Real Public Transportation grants because the FCPT we see around here is a joke, that should take the P out of its vans and cars, as if you are not grandfathering you can’t ride it. But we all have to pay for it. Are you aware of it? What is up with that?
Work force: mfg and knowledge okay for the local possibilities, as Silicon Valley, only one in CA and China and hard to beat.
Business Friendly environment: after PC officials realized this pathetic economy some improvements are being worked out.
Positive reason to locate your business here? One of many, doing business in paradise. Among Golf Courses, Tennis Courts, Bicycle Paths and gorgeous Walkways. 300 miles of canals some saltwater where the business owner can have his boat in the back of the house and enjoy long months of Spring, Summer and Fall weather. He can get home after work and go boating or sailing. Those that like fishing have it all around us, or just go get a good tan at the beach with his business barely two miles from it. Where else can we get that affordable business location so close to the beach? This is the type of promotion that has to be used to attract small business here.
Just yesterday I was at a Christmas Dinner in Volusia County and a professional supplier of Lowe’s at the table as well, told me how lucky I was that I reside in Palm Coast as is so beautiful! I replied, that in spite of our high unemployment still, I am very satisfied and happy of being a Palm Coast resident and have my small business here. I hear this comment from anyone that visits my house, whether our Canadians, Europeans or Caribean friends. As for myself there is in Florida one place that is prettier than Palm Coast and is Miami…my personal opinion..and that is what I call unaffordable!
Palmcoaster, then why are we losing so many businesses?
This was one of the great moves from the City of Palm Coast when requested the $150,000 from TDC funds for adding these courts and will pay up soon! Last year the Lacrosse tournament, brought hundreds to use our local hospitality and other businesses. Not only we host and promote local physical fitness, we also promote our cities and county and generate needed revenue.
The best people for the job are VERY familiar with the county. That’s why they don’t want the job.
Sorry my typos above…”moving expenses paid”. But the nonsense hiring outrage, fogs my digits.
@One of the 10%. We are loosing many business in Palm Coast, simply because the high employment also reduces sales. People has less or no money and buy less. Also because still we have too much outsourcing and this city needs to start yet its own campaign attracting more small businesses to settle here. Next, one of the typical ways that Florida government goes about outsourcing jobs.
Why other tan creating a job for an Education Unemployed Professional or related experienced resident of Florida, instead do they bring this guy here from GA to make this kind of money on top of his comfortable army retirement check? This shows outsourcing at its best! This is why “the good old boy Florida policies to benefit the elite” keeps the state submerged in one of the highest unemployment percentages in our nation. Sure we have enough master degrees professionals unemployed in Florida right now for this position. Was this Scotts idea? Anyway under his brother influence the DCF has been a total failure till now. Imagine the moving expenses paid as well from GA to Fl.
Also prejudice while enforcing the law in Flagler County by some of our cops undermines our businesses:
Why law enforcement protects the crooks in this county and punish the honest? Newby and the sheriff office should be compensating the business owner for the losses, to NO fault of his own. Sheriff at least should have taken both in, not just one.