Almost three years after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, Florida’s and the nation’s economies still languish. Most of the economists said it would be a long and slow recovery, and they were right. Marion County has been the poster child for the anemic economic condition. The big drivers—construction and real estate—will not be bouncing back, and the economists told us that. They were right about that, too. Modern history shows that all previous recessions experienced by our community had significant increases in housing sales and building permits after the downturn ended. Not this one. People are still surprised and dumbfounded.
As the dust settles from the 2011 Florida Legislative session and the fallout of a $4 billion budget deficit, our communities will most likely experience further economic trauma as government employees lose their jobs and the effects of ensuing cutbacks of services take hold.
Adding to further disenchantment with our economic malaise is the simple truth that the government can’t really create jobs. Instead, its primary role should be to simply set the stage for private sector job creation.
While our state government attempts to patch together some sort of economic recovery strategy, the Florida Chamber Foundation, headed by Dr. Dale Brill, is finally summoning the private sector to come up with a realistic and industrious game plan. Now known as the “Six Pillars” Community Initiative, the Florida Chamber has crafted a collaborative process that links all of our state’s diverse communities to collective economic prosperity and high-paying jobs for our children’s future.
The “Six Pillars” concept focuses on the critical factors that will determine Florida’s, as well as Marion County’s, competitiveness and ability to attract and retain world-class companies:
1. Talent Supply & Education. Now is the time to build our community’s future workforce with education and training as its foundation.
2. Innovation & Economic Development. Quality job creation will be based on technology and innovation. Transforming our existing industries is critical for retention and expansion.
3. Infrastructure & Growth Leadership. To be a truly global player, Florida must make timely investments in communications and infrastructure, as well as get a grip on our natural resources allocation and growth management practices.
4. Business Climate & Competitiveness. This pillar ensures that we maintain a pro-business climate while keeping our business costs and tax burden reasonable.
5. Civic & Governance Systems. Making sure that government on all levels is held accountable and provides services in the most efficient way.
6. Quality of Life & Quality Places. Along with education, we must provide for excellent health care, public safety, aesthetic natural environments and a robust culture.
Recently, community and business leaders from the EDC and Ocala/Marion County Chamber gathered with Dr. Brill to learn about the “Six Pillars” framework and talk about aligning our business agenda and economy strategy in that context.
The basis of the collective conversation was to further refine the long-term economic strategy for our community, improve the business development delivery system and find the most effective way to execute those services. As a result, our Boards of Directors will now determine if the preferred vehicle is the “Six Pillars” and, if so, whether we join in the statewide conversation with the Florida Chamber.
As we look forward to future prosperity, the key issues to stimulate change are job growth and economic diversification. To achieve those goals, it is important for the business community to come together and use their talents and energies to help jump-start the economy. It is all about local people solving local problems.For further information: ocalaedc.org and floridachamberfoundation.org.