Small businesses benefit from Wakulla County growth

Hundreds of new homes under construction
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Posted at 6:00 PM, Jul 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-28 18:26:08-04

WAKULLA COUNTY, Fla. (WTXL) — Between 300 and 500 new homes a year have been going up in Wakulla County for the past three years. County leaders are working to attract more business to the area. That means making room for more families.

Locally-owned businesses in the area are benefiting from the new neighbors. While much of Wakulla County is made up of wildlife refuge, protected forest and pristine waters, there are more residential areas popping up in the county.

“This is the busiest year we’ve ever had,” explained Amber Miller, broker with Golden Properties and Investments. Those new homes are making way for hundreds of new people. “I feel like we’re drawing a lot of good people here into our community from other states,” Miller added.

South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, California, New York, Georgia are just some of the states people are leaving for the Big Bend. The cost of living is a big factor.

For example, BestPlaces.net says the median home cost in Crawfordville is about 36% less than a home in similarly sized Greenacres, California near the coast. County leaders say that’s attractive to retirees. On top of that, the pandemic has opened the world to remote work and relocation. County leaders say the school system is attractive to families here. The district has earned an A or B grade every year for the last 12 years.

While builders invest in real estate, Samuel Ash is working revamp Crum’s Mini Mall in Panacea.

“We’re trying to grow the business,” Ash explained. “I’m looking at opening up more locations and adding more to offer.”

The landmark has stood here for about a half a century. Ash took over in December of 2020.

“We’re seeing a lot more vacationers, a lot more people retire down here. A lot of houses being built both residential and vacation,” Ash added. “There are a lot more customers coming by. We need more help every day.”

As he focuses on recreation just a few miles away in Sopchoppy, Jim Tartt is taking a family recipe that started in Wakulla County and sending it beyond the borders of the county

“The more people that live here the more opportunity you have to sell your product,” Tartt said. It’s called JB’s Sopchoppy Sauce. “It’s in the Bahamas, New Jersey, it’s all over the place,” Tartt added.

He said a family member invented the sauce about 40 years ago. What started out as a gift for friends and family on the holidays has grown exponentially over the last two years.

“We started making it a gallon at a time on the stove and now we make about 300 gallons a time,” Tartt added.

That’s 300 gallons a month. When asked if inflation has impacted his operation, he said, “Oh, man, thousands of dollars. How much the products are to actually get now to make the sauce and then your cost of labels, seals, caps.”

Despite those challenges, he said they’ll keep making the sauce. With more people moving in nearby, businesses across Wakulla County are counting on a growing economy for years to come.

County leaders said they’ve got plans in place for the next five years that could make up for any economic downtown should that happen. Learn more about the big business moving to Wakulla County with part one of this story here.