A regional plan providing scaffolding for future economic development in a four-county area was received, and approved, last week by the Board of County Commissioners.

 

A regional plan providing scaffolding for future economic development in a four-county area was received, and approved, last week by the Board of County Commissioners.

Effectively, commissioners signed on to the plan, which provides an overview of the opportunities to create an intermodal hub between Gadsden and Gulf counties as well as a road map to pursuing state funding for projects within the corridor.

The plan was funded by $60,000 from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and the four counties, which also included Franklin and Liberty, were assisted by the Apalachee Regional Planning Council.

The grant aimed at crafting a strategic plan for the freight corridor, or Gadsden to Gulf Freight Logistics Zone (FLZ).

As part of that FLZ, the plan also highlighted the potential sites for Intermodal Logistics Centers (ILC), or hubs for regional activity.

One would be Gadsden County, where rail lines and I-10 converge and the other is a site in Gulf County, known in the document as the “lay-down yard” and which possesses access to rail and roadways, State 71 connecting to I-10 and, ultimately, the Gulf Coast Parkway once constructed.

The strategic plan identified the key infrastructure within the Gadsden to Gulf FLZ, including the Port of Port St. Joe, the Apalachicola Regional Airport in Franklin County, the I-10 interchange in Gadsden County and rail connections in Liberty County.

In addition, the zone includes the Intracoastal Waterway, which can connect this area to farflung locales across the country.

The strategic plans details the results of Strategic Site Inventories undertaken in all four counties under a Duke Energy grant to identify potential lands or sites which could contribute to unlocking the economic development potential of the region.

Warren Yeager, executive director of the Gulf County Economic Coalition, said the plan offers an avenue to pursue Florida Department of Transportation grants for projects within the corridor.

Some of those projects or potential projects are detailed in the plan.

“The Gulf to Gadsden FLZ has significant potential to become an important area for movement of goods in northwest Florida where local, regional and State officials have been working on plans to support and promote economic development competitiveness,” the strategic plan’s authors wrote.

“The plans include redevelopment of the Port of Port St. Joe, improvements to the rail facilities, improvements to the Apalachicola Regional Airport, development of ILCs in Gulf and Gadsden counties, and strategic sites inventories in all four counties identifying lands with potential for industrial and commercial development.”

The plan also puts a spotlight on the region’s promixity to the expanded Panama Canal, closer than any other Florida seaport, as well as the existing rail and water avenues from the region to broader markets.

Land swap

Commissioners last week also moved ahead on a proposed swap of land with Deseret.

The cattle and logging company wanted the county to abandon Indian Bayou Road near Howard Creek in exchange for receiving full title to the Willis Landing in Wewahitchka.

The county long leased Willis Landing from the St. Joe Company, which sold the landing, roughly 2.98 acres, to Deseret as part of a larger sale several years ago.

Deseret wishes to use Indian Bayou Road as a company road, with no public traffic as part of its cattle and logging operations.

Commissioners formally took the step of abandoning the road last week in the first hurdle toward completing the swap.

Veterans park dedication

The Veterans Services Office is planning for a June 22 dedication of Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill.

The park is receiving a $1 million makeover with funds stemming from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment pool following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The park is the first to be completed from among the four county parks and recreation projects announced four years ago in the first round of NRDA projects.

The park, with a new amphitheater and wall honoring veterans, hosted its first event over the Memorial Day weekend.

June regular meeting

The June regular monthly meeting of the BOCC will be held Monday, June 26, instead of its usual Tuesday slot.

Tuesday through Friday of that week is the annual meeting of the Florida Association of Counties, and BOCC chair Ward McDaniel announced several commissioners will be attending.