Brevard County is one of 112 winners of the Sunshine Review’s second annual Sunny Awards, which recognize the most transparent state and local government Web sites in the nation. The idea behind the awards is that access to information empowers people and holds governments accountable. Since its inception in 2008, Sunshine Review has analyzed government Web sites in all 50 states and 6,000 locales. This year, Brevard earned an A-, with the only noted deficiency being information about lobbying. Grading takes into account the proactive disclosure of information on budgets, meetings, elected and administrative officials, permits and zoning, audits, contracts, lobbying, public records and taxes, as well as ease of use and availability of information. Florida received more Sunny Awards than any other state, earning 20.
Citrus County Solid Waste Management Division has changed its countywide recycling program by introducing single-stream recycling at the 12 county recycling drop-off centers. Single-stream recycling refers to collection of all recyclable materials in one container. Solid Waste, in conjunction with the new county recycling contractor, Waste Pro of Florida Inc., has replaced the old multiple-stream containers with new ones. The recycling changes apply only to the county-sponsored Green Bin Recycling Program. Besides materials that have traditionally been accepted at the drop-off centers, the county now accepts all plastics, mixed paper, food containers and aerosol cans, among other items. According to Solid Waste Director Casey Stephens, the effort helps the county comply with legislation that established recycling goals for all Florida counties with populations greater than 100,000.
Joe Stapf, Hernando County environmental services director since January 2008, left the post in mid-October to become public works director/city engineer of Northfield, Minn. County Administrator David Hamilton has presented a recommended transition plan to the Board of County Commissioners. Stapf was born in Northfield, so the new venture provides him an opportunity to return to his hometown and be near his extended family. Prior to arriving in Hernando, he was the director of utilities for the City of Wyoming, Mich.
The “Green Hillsborough” initiative is touted by county officials as not being just a slogan. A recent accounting serves to confirm that contention. For example: Hillsborough County Facilities Management has obtained the EPA Energy Star Rating for energy efficiency on several county buildings. The Public Works Department has completed a retrofit of more than 500 signalized intersections, replacing more than 15,000 incandescent bulbs with LED lights, as well as replaced overhead street sign fluorescent lights with electronic lamps. The county's Fleet Department employs several alternative fuel vehicles including hybrids, a Compressed Natural Gas vehicle, as well as four hybrid bucket trucks whose platforms are battery powered. Also, the County Development Services Department allows for Green Development projects to be granted a review in half the normal working time.
The newly formed Lake County Office of Economic Development & Tourism has developed a plan to implement a regional approach to economic development. The plan calls for a team of economic development and tourism coordinators to support three micro-regions within Lake: northeast, northwest and southern. To implement the plan, the county has restructured the office staff, enabling the coordinators to work more closely with local businesses and municipalities in their assigned regions. According to Scott Blankenship, director of the Office of Economic Development & Tourism, the hands-on approach to supporting local businesses will create synergy to overall economic development initiatives. The coordinators: Adam Sumner, northwest region; Robert Chandler, northeast region; and Cecelia Smith, south region.
Businesses that choose to locate or expand in Manatee are scheduled to receive $6,626,576 in incentives over the next seven years as a result of the county’s Economic Development Incentive Grant. Since rolling out the program in 2009, county commissioners have awarded the grants, which will go to create 3,534 new jobs and retain 529 jobs in the county—incentives that will help 4,063 local families find work in Manatee, according to county officials. To qualify, a company must show it will add new jobs that pay 115 percent of the average Manatee County annual wage (in the range of $33,500). The county will pay $1,000 for each high-paying job a company creates, and the grant isn't necessarily one time. If a company expands incrementally over the years, it can reapply for the grant for each new batch of jobs it creates.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has created the Puerto Rico Trade & Commerce Workgroup, composed of business executives from Central Florida and Puerto Rico, and appointed Orange County Commissioner Lui Damiani, District 3, to chair it. The workgroup “will collaborate to promote economic development between Orange County and Puerto Rico by formulating strategies that facilitate commerce,” Jacobs says. The concept of a workgroup emerged after a series of meetings with business executives were held in Puerto Rico during a recent trade mission led by Jacobs, in partnership with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Orlando.
The Osceola County Economic Development Department has launched an outreach program called We Speak Jobs, designed to “energize and focus the community on a holistic approach to creating jobs.” The department has concluded a strategic plan that includes recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on new incentives. Later this year, a third-party study will look at the types of companies the county is trying to attract to ensure those efforts are in step with the needs of the region. Part of the current effort involves Job Talks, a new program of special events where experts come together to give general overviews of specific areas of business and what they mean for Osceola County's economy.
County officials have been working behind the scenes to lure businesses to Pasco (as previously reported in ForwardFlorida). The effort appears to have paid off, as the county and Raymond James Financial have entered into an economic development agreement that encourages the company to build a new corporate campus in the Wesley Chapel area. The initial commitment by Raymond James Financial is for two approximately 100,000-square-foot office buildings and 750 jobs. According to the Pasco County Economic Development Council's independent report on the impact of the agreement, over the next 15 years roughly 1,200 jobs could be created, with total salaries to direct and indirect workers in excess of $600 million plus additional taxable sales of some $135 million.
Members of the community are invited to join the newly formed Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger. After a year of planning, the group is ready to begin building a “hunger-free community, where there is access to nutritious food for all residents.” Pinellas County Health and Human Services is a partner in the network, which hopes to accomplish that goal by eliminating barriers on a regional level, along with increasing access to food and expanding the amount of nutritious food available. The group’s initial projects are researching where hunger gaps exist, educating about the existence of hunger and solutions, and increasing access to currently unused agricultural products that could be distributed to those in need. To learn more about the group, call (727) 823-7866.
To help residents be better prepared, Polk County now participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Program benefits include availability of low-cost flood insurance for residents in unincorporated Polk. Nearly 20,000 communities across the United States and its territories participate in the NFIP by adopting and enforcing floodplain management ordinances to reduce future flood damage. In exchange, the NFIP
makes federally backed flood insurance available to homeowners, renters and business owners in these communities. An annual floodplain
management progress report has been posted to the county's Web site, which also contains information to help protect residents from
Intent on improving its Geographic Information System address database—with hopes of ensuring that emergency vehicles, first responders and public safety officials can be dispatched to correct addresses—officials have initiated a project to validate all county addresses. North Carolina–based Geographic Technologies Group is conducting the fieldwork, which involves stand-alone buildings and multiple-unit buildings such as apartments, condominiums and town homes, as well as commercial, retail and office facilities. Occupants may be asked to supply a site map or unit map when GTG workers verify addresses, helping to reduce the time required for them to verify addresses.
Joseph R. Abel, leisure services director for Seminole County, recently received the Florida Recreation and Park Association Achievement Award. Abel received the award, one of the most prestigious given by the association, for his more than 24 years of leadership, community involvement and professionalism in the field. Since joining Seminole County from a position in Coral Gables in 2007, Abel has led the Leisure Services Department to its position as a nationally accredited and award-winning agency. Recognition includes U.S. Tennis Association Florida and USTA National Agency of the Year in 2010; 2009 Attraction of the Year by Seminole County Convention and Visitors Bureau; and 2011 Most Outstanding Destination to Host a Sporting Event by SportsEvents Magazine. Some of his personal accomplishments include past service as president of the FRPA and service as a board member for the National Recreation and Park Association and for the FRPA Foundation's Board of Trustees.
The Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce is among the groups seeking to raise awareness of the public-private initiatives that could drive the space industry forward, in spite of reductions in federal funding for NASA. Space is a $250 billion business, and the Kennedy Space Center has been working with private companies and individuals who want to launch rockets or space vehicles from Cape Canaveral. The underlying belief is that the region must come together to help keep the space industry going. According to Chamber President Larry McKinney, the organization will continue to work in concert with Volusia County's private-public economic partnership, Team Volusia Economic Development Corp., to get the word out to local businesses about potential opportunities. Students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, for example, are working on a device for rockets that would let other aircraft in the vicinity know the rocket's position.