Competitive Florida grants and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity are investing in Florida’s rural communities. The grants span 2 years and help the communities use innovative strategies to promote viable economies, community designs and partnerships. Each community must develop an asset mapping plan first. The cities of DeFuniak Springs, Port St. Joe and Madison along with the town of Century are four of the North Florida communities using the grants for revitalization.
The city of DeFuniak Springs was originally established as a destination resort by railroad businessmen. DeFuniak Springs will use their funds to hire a consultant to help align land development regulations with a comprehensive plan for projects such as affordable housing, youth activities, city beautification and community engagement. The widening of US Hwy. 331, a main Alabama to Florida corridor, will also help with economic growth for the city.
The city of Port St. Joe’s Port Authority is studying the feasibility of dredging their port channel to 35 feet. This will allow all sizes of modern shipping vessels to use the port. The Competitive Florida grant has allowed Port St. Joe to identify their assets to help redefine the city. Port St. Joe is also becoming the home to newer industries such as biofuel production and conversion of plastic bottles to aviation fuel.
Visit Florida has just named the city of Madison as one of the “Best Little Towns in Florida”. It is the home of North Florida Community College and has an out-campus for St. Leo University. Madison conducted an asset mapping that defined the need for redesigned recreational opportunities and youth development programs. Their grant money developed ideas to enhance and market recreational facilities as well as youth mentoring plans and partnerships.
The town of Century was founded as a sawmill town in 1901. Century is strategically placed between I-65 and I-10 on the Florida-Alabama state line north of Pensacola. The town of Century has a master-planned industrial park. The grants allowed the town to hire an economic development coordinator and they have been able to host workforce training sessions and small business development workshops.
The Competitive Florida grants are allowing rural Florida communities to zero in on their assets (their people, space and low costs of living) and identify the solutions that will be building blocks for their revitalization! Check out the full article below by Tisha Crews Keller: