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A picture-perfect banquet and awards program at the Tommy Usher Center on Oct. 23 reflected a successful start by the Levy County Economic Zone Development Agency (EZDA) this year.
EZDA Chairman Skipper Henderson recognized launch sponsors CLM Work Force, Capital City Bank, Progress Energy Florida and Monterey Boats. The tens of thousands of dollars given to kickoff EZDA were part of a formula for a successful start-up.
Shadow Trailers, Beauchamp & Edwards CPAs, Chiefland Rotary Club, Davis Printing and many other cash and in-kind contributors helped start the program too, Henderson said.
Adding to a continuing effort, Progress Energy Florida donated another $10,000 as its annual donation to be the first "Diamond" sponsor for 2008, Henderson said.
Quickly joining Progress Energy that evening are two $500 donors. They are Bell's Catering of Chiefland and a New Jersey company known as Gideon Development, which plans to build residential property in Levy County.
The night was full of positive news from Bridget Merrill, senior director for rural competitiveness with Enterprise Florida; Danny Roderick, vice president of nuclear projects and construction with Progress Energy Florida; and Frank Schupp, president of Tri-County Hospital.
Merrill opened the series of speeches.
"I don't think I ever saw anyone more anxious, and more energetic, and more in a loving way pushy, than Pam Blair was to make sure everything was just right for the Levy County Enterprise Zone," Merrill said.
A strategic plan for development and sound leadership that exists in EZDA, Merrill said, heralds the start of a working program. This is a great "first step," she said, and Levy County should applaud the EZDA. Economic development, however, is a marathon race rather than a sprint, Merrill said.
It takes a persistent and dedicated staff to assure success and long-term sustainability, Merrill said.
EZDA leadership is made up of Chairman Henderson, Vice Chair Carol McQueen, Sharon Battles, Andy Lott, Marilyn Ladner, Robert E. Lowyns, Ted Parada, Sean Mullins, Cathy Roche and Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas.
Roderick spoke about the economic impact from building a nuclear power plant with two reactors in southern Levy County. Six thousand construction workers for seven years will be consumers and members of the communities in and around southern Levy County, he said. Another 1,000 full-time plant workers will start being hired in 2011, if the schedule goes as projected now, Roderick said.
Over the projected lifespan of the power plant, an estimated $444 million in taxes will be paid to Levy County, he said.
Schupp noted the hospital is creating the equivalent of 230 full-time jobs. He thanked Blair for her help in using EZDA resources. Tax credits and benefits from being in the economic zone promise to bring Tri-County Hospital as much as $11.5 million in tax credits.
Both Roderick and Schupp recited information about these two major projects' potential dates of completion.
Henderson reminded all business interests to ask Blair, "Am I in the zone?" The EZDA telephone number is (352) 486-5470.