Economic development, as it pertains to that created by government, took another step backward this year.
In significant measure, that was due to the residue of politics after the Board of County Commissioners spent the final months of 2012 taking control of the Economic Development Council, and then, in early 2013, handing duties to a newly-formed Gulf County Economic Development Alliance, Inc.
The latter decision by the BOCC was hotly debated and ended in a sharply divided vote that was hardly a mandate for the EDA or executive director Barry Sellers, who spent the holidays in 2012 not knowing what and where his job was.
By the end of 2013 Sellers was back in Arkansas with a new employer after resigning citing health and family reasons.
The EDA has a volunteer board and no staff or executive director.
The Chamber of Commerce had a new director and staff and the consolidated economic development model the BOCC forced among the agencies less than two years ago disappeared, replaced largely by the status quo – or at least what has been the status quo the five previous times in a dozen years that the BOCC has upended the operations of the EDC.
And while there were inroads made – Sellers brought more involvement from the north end of the county and inquiries increased – the tangible result was primarily that the county continues to tread water when it comes to job creation and boosting the local economy.
Even one of the county’s top private sector employers, Health Check, announced a planned expansion would take place in Mississippi and not in Gulf County due to the economic climate created by local government.