GADSDEN COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — With four interstate interchanges, leaders in Gadsden County are working to attract new businesses and new jobs to the Big Bend.
They are focusing on manufacturing, trade and logistics, but it’s not just the big businesses that could benefit from future economic development.
“We drive from Sopchoppy. We’re about 45 minutes away,” said Dan Patterson. He is a small business owner working in Gadsden County. He sells hot lunches and snacks to workers in the industrial park in Midway where multiple construction projects are happening. He says that drive is well worth it.
“I’ve been working across the street for a while noticing the need for food,” Patterson explained. “There’s no food in this area.”
That food feeds all the workers coming and going. As leaders in Gadsden County work to attract more companies here, that need will likely go up.
“Gadsden County has a lot of opportunities for businesses,” said Dr. Anthony Viegbesie. He is a county commissioner working to develop the hundreds of acres of land here. “We have parks and industrial sites that are ready for businesses to come in.”
The Quincy Business Park has more than 100 acres of land ready for development. The area is zoned for warehousing and light distribution. Just up the road from there near Gretna, a massive truck-to-rail logistics center has been proposed. That idea takes advantage of the railroad running through the county. Plans from March of 2021 show where a site could feature over 750 container trailer spaces.
While industrial sites are ready for sewer line connections, elsewhere in the county, Leslie Steele said those connections are a challenge. “You can’t bring a Wal-Mart or something here if you don’t have it on the sewer system.” Steele is the public information officer for Gadsden County Board of County Commissioners.
She said county leaders have been working to secure grants for that kind of development where needed. Some of that support comes from the state level. Governor Ron DeSantis recently announced nearly $9 million for infrastructure and economic development in the county.
Part of that investment includes, “$500,000 for the city of Gretna to support road and utility improvements for the construction of a new facility that will create jobs and have an economic impact of almost $15 million,” Governor DeSantis said.
That money could be a big benefit to the area. CareerSource Capital Region says Gadsden County’s unemployment rate sits at 3.1 percent as of their update in May. That’s the highest in the Capital Region which covers Wakulla and Leon Counties too.
With all those jobs potentially coming to the county, small business owners like Patterson said that could have a positive trickle-down effect on everyone else.
“The need for fresh, hot food – everybody wants it, especially with the prices going up,” Patterson added. We asked if inflation has had an impact on his business. He replied, “yeah, hotdogs have already gone up twice in two weeks!”
Gadsden County Tourist Development Council has also opened the application process for its 2022 Tourist Development Grant. That money can support events and attractions that bring visitors to the area and use local hotels. All grant applications are available online at gadsdencountyfl.govand must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org on or before the application due date, September 1, 2022, at 5:00 p.m.
Applicants can also request an application by calling 850.875.8671.