These words are for those officials, public and private, who hold the keys to an operational Port of Port St. Joe.

These words are for those officials, public and private, who hold the keys to an operational Port of Port St. Joe.

They come from one voice, but one who resides within a demographic swath of this county’s residents, the vast majority of whom are working folks.

Working stiffs, blue collar, though it may not always be blue, but working paycheck to paycheck, hoping the next one somehow meets the demands of the bills that shred each one.

And, bluntly, we need the help of all those officials residing in the action zone.

We need your help in making an operational Port of Port St. Joe, debated, discussed for decades, become a reality.

Decades have passed since the paper mill closed and the engine that drove the economic train in this community went off the rails.

The real estate boom went bust, not that many of us working stiffs experienced much of the boom anyway.

And though there are signs of a rebound in land values, again, outside of the construction trades, a whole lot of folks will be left on the sideline of any boom repeat.

Just look at two recent studies reported earlier this month that highlighted how the growth in home values has far outpaced any rise household income.

Working folks are seeing more and more of each paycheck gobbled up just trying to keep a roof over their heads.

Many are just holding on to their tiny slice of paradise.

Economic diversification isn’t a dream for them; it is the only hope for strengthening the grip of their fingernails to survive and pay the bills.

So, all this endless talk, seemingly endless debate, more than 15 years worth, seems, well, endless.

And many can’t afford to it to continue, ad nauseum.

There is the St. Joe Company, yes, a private company required to answer to shareholders, but a company nonetheless that took its name from a community and helped drive that community’s fortunes.

Now, those fortunes have diminished and the company still holds an important key, namely the infrastructure, particularly a bulkhead, that could open up and diversify a port.

There is Eastern Shipbuilding, which announced more than four years ago that it would expand into Gulf County.

The county has gone out and secured state appropriations to facilitate that expansion and St. Joe is leasing Eastern a portion of the bulkhead.

A wood chip manufacturer and shipper is the first tenant at the port for both Port Authority and St. Joe, poised, according to public information, to move forward with its operational plans at the port.

A freight zone logistics study is completed, putting the Port of Port St. Joe in a prominent place, maybe the prominent spot on the map, for economic revitalization of not only a community but a region.

And none of it is any more than paper, words and ideas until something happens on the ground.

The message from this corner: put some lead in it, more shoulder to the wheel.

The fuel has arrived in the form of Triumph Gulf Coast and the tens of millions of dollars earmarked for economic development.

A shoulder is found in various pots of fine dollars stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Remember, that idea about RESTORE-ing economies and environments.

Our economy needs, must have, restoration.

In reality, though, this whole enterprise begins with local officials, elected and not.

A good start for getting on the right page might be reading from the same book.

This isn’t about personalities or credit or who can amass power or money, or at least it shouldn’t be.

It is not about turf, about who talked, or didn’t, to who, about bruised feelings or misplaced perceptions.

This is about, wait for it, serving a community, those people represented and, in theory, served, by our public officials.

The real stakeholders, the just plain folks.

This is about joining together, it can be done, as boards, as cities, as a county, as port officials, as Triumph representatives, as commissioners, to be aggressive and passionate about restoring, there’s that word again, a community.

About putting it back on its feet, stronger in some ways in stance than when the mill bellowed or land values skyrocketed.

This isn’t a “she” or “he” or “we” or “them”; it is an it.

To put a nautical spin on it, appropriate for this area, recall the adage about rising water and all boats.

The opportunities for such a tide is right there, in front of the county, the region.

There is another appropriate cliché: there is no “I” in “team.”

So, in this county, if the process devolves into personalities, into a tussle about who and what is going to steer the ship, as has too often happened, the vessel will surely do nothing but list.

Everybody, private and public partners, must be on board steering in communion.

If that happens, if a community is indeed put back on track, there will be plenty of time and opportunity for spreading credit around like butter on toast.

If not, for the working folks of this county, it is likely going to mean that it’s soon going to time to man the lifeboats.