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Outlining Achievements, Enterprise Flagler Tells Palm Coast City Council: We Matter

| August 17, 2010

Groundhog Day for Enterprise Flagler: Executive Director Greg Rawls (© FlaglerLive)

Enterprise Flagler, the private-public economic development agency, has been taking plenty of criticism lately over its mission, its achievements or lack of transparency. The criticism did one thing Enterprise Flagler hadn’t done for itself: it brought more attention to the agency, shedding some light on its purpose and shortcomings and compelling it to make its case more publicly than it’d been willing to.

Tuesday morning, Enterprise Flagler Executive Director Greg Rawls did just that before the Palm Coast City Council: We matter, we create jobs, we even save taxpayers money, Rawls told four of the five council members. (Council member Bill Lewis, one of Enterprise Flagler’s most caustic critics, was absent until the very end of Rawls’ presentation.) The report to the council was in response to last week’s criticism by several council members that Enterprise Flagler was taxing taxpayer dollars without accounting for it.

Rawls outlined a series of achievements: Keeping Palm Coast Data and Sea Ray in the county (1,600 jobs between them), bringing ACI, the software company (75 jobs), Bunnell’s National Direct Response (190 projected jobs, though there are questions about that company’s promise), and nurturing several other, smaller enterprises that have less visibility but still add up to jobs now or in the future. Among those: “The hose people,” as Rawls called MH Operations, the innovative hose company that just scored a deal with the Flagler County Commission to use one of the county airport’s many empty buildings, at deep discount, to start manufacturing its product.

“We need each other,” Rawls said toward the end of his presentation. “The government can’t do it by itself and the private sector can’t do it by itself.”

Rawls was more cagey when it came to explaining his role or Enterprise Flagler’s intentions regarding the contentious tax the agency is proposing. The tax (25-cent-per-$1,000 in property valuations) appears on this November’s ballot. The $2 million or so it would generate would be used to build new industrial facilities that would attract companies to the county, and to market the county as a business destination. The proposal is weathering more criticism than support for being unclear. Rawls did not make it more clear or compelling this morning.

Council member Holsey Moorman, noting that Rawls has a staff of two, asked him how that initiative, if it succeeds, is going to help him step up his operations. “Are you looking to add additional staff? How are you going to step up your operation to go after more business that come into Flagler County?” Rawls responded with what has become the standard pitch for the referendum: Flagler County “is not in the game” when it comes to attracting companies looking for industrial facilities of 50,000 square feet or more, as 70 to 80 percent of the leads Rawls receive call for. The initiative, however, “could possibly fund another position” at Enterprise Flagler.

Rawls did not take the opportunity to detail his initiatives regarding the tax proposal, including a new web site he registered at in mid-July, to be called “Flagler’s New Game Plan” (and go along with the rather clunky web address, Marketing 2 Go’s Cindy Dalecki just launched a Facebook page of the same name, without yet connecting it directly to the initiative. And Enterprise Flagler is preparing to roll out a public-awareness campaign, including an extensive Q&A designed to address skepticism and criticism of the tax.

Ironically, soon after Rawls made his presentation, the council took up discussion of the single-largest development proposal in Palm Coast’s 10-year history, Old Brick Township—which would include 1 million square feet of industrial development, again raising the question of need for government-backed subsidies of industrial developments.

Several of the items on Rawls’ list of achievements had less to do with job creation than marketing—and marketing Enterprise Flagler particularly. And several items, including Palm Coast’s relatively new, high-speed “fibernet” network for businesses, Palm Coast’s “master plan” for development in and around the county airport, and the development of an industrial zone were not Enterprise Flagler achievements but what Rawls described as “community initiatives” in which Enterprise Flagler played a role. And Rawls’ contention that Enterprise Flagler saves taxpayers money–because, he claims, the agency prevents duplication of services–is questionable, as Palm Coast and the county have economic development budgets that dwarf that of Enterprise Flagler, yet keep contributing to the agency.

Council members asked only a few questions after the presentation, and Netts turned down a request from the public to comment, saying he would allow it only at the end of what promised to be a long meeting. Netts asked Rawls to return in six months. “Six months or six years?” Rawls said, an attempt at humor that didn’t take with Netts, who said again: “Six months.”

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6 Responses for “Outlining Achievements, Enterprise Flagler Tells Palm Coast City Council: We Matter”

  1. BW says:

    What I am missing here is what does our Chamber do? Shouldn’t they be doing the same thing? And their incentive is easy . . . more members means more funds being paid. I’m not seeing the ‘we matter’ part with this organization at all and am now more than ever voting a big ‘NO’.

  2. PC Dad says:

    Instead of the county funding the brick and mortar to bring businesses here that end up as empty shells when the business goes belly-up or to a better deal, lets get these new businesses to put up their own walls and give them a reason to work harder to make sure their investment works out. Do that through short term tax incentives, credits, whatever you want to call them for every job that they create here. Forget this crap of needing $2 million to subsidize these businesses if that is what they are really doing with the money Quote: “The initiative, however, “could possibly fund another position” at Enterprise Flagler.” REALLY!!! Where do I apply for the job with the $2 million salary?!?!?!

    Lets get rid of this Enterprise Flagler. Sounds like one hell of a waste of money and little to show for it as we saw at the city commission hearing this morning.

  3. Itchey says:

    I always thought that the “Marketing” that “Enterprize Flagler” so proudly touts itself on is actually the job of Private Real Estate Companies who want to sell commercial property. The Chamber of Commerce which is funded by membership dues, and the County Government in setting an example of fairness across the board to allow business to devlop on it’s own.

    If business is going to come to Flagler it is because we offer something very tangeable, like good workers, a safe community, an ABOVE STANDARD OF LIVING, so that the workers and owners want to be here.

    Enterprize will occur as values rise, Standards Improve, and the government operates in a clear and consistant manner. With users fee’s taked onto everything every time you turn around, it quickly becomes a hassle and maybe even more trouble than it is worth to relocate aa business anywhere. Most of the contacts and requests Enterprize Flagler is fielding is for 50,000 square feet and up, okay great, now how many have you landed that take that kind of space?

    Maybe we would do better to combine, TDC and Enterprize Flagler, not increase the tax rate at all, and gear our TDC funds more to attract business and tourism at the same time. I mean after all, attacting business from out of town will result in hotel rooms, meals, and ancillary services right?

    Or perhaps Enterprize Flagler would be better off supplimenting advertsing budgets to Real Estate Companies listing Commercial Property, and in return the Real Estate Companies return say a 1% of the sale price when the lease, or sale goes through? That allows the enterprize fund to be replenished by the people who get the benefit of it?

    Then the commision could work a sliding scale of temporary fees to the business as they are established, and partake a recoup of those intial funds expended, from the people who are successful?

  4. Sal Pilchard says:

    They unemployment rate in Flagler County speaks volumes for how much Enterprise Flagler matters. In truth, they matter not.

  5. John S says:

    We should consider making an Economic Development Council similar to St John County. This council is an affiliate to the Chamber of Commerce. As Chamber members, you pay an addiitional annual fee to become members of the council. This would allow more members, more voices, more participation, and more ideas, and more transparency.

  6. Billy says:

    But not every business is a chamber member what happens to their voices?

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