In November, Nassau County swore in three new commissioners to the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). These individuals will, among other things, be responsible for appointing citizens to critical committees. Now that the new year is here, we are hopeful that our new commissioners will attend to the county’s serious problems and make a concerted effort to be more fiscally savvy and business friendly. Nassau County has not had a successful time working with businesses, to say the least. Whether it’s bringing new companies to the area or helping businesses that are already in the area expand, the county has been disinterested. Unfortunately, our county has established itself as “closed for business,” and recently chased away the highly competent lead of our economic development effort. Ask any site selector or business that has tried to locate here over the last several years.
This is unfortunate because being open for smart economic development is something our county so desperately needs in order to improve the resiliency of our economy, provide high-wage jobs, and strengthen our tax base. The economic development world is fiercely competitive. Our county has failed to recognize that two pulp and paper mills built in the 1930s, residential development and tourism alone cannot carry the county as its growth rate accelerates. Among the direct results we see of this head-in-the-sand approach is an over-reliance on residential property taxes to pay for all public infrastructure and services. It’s one reason why our taxes have gone up so dramatically, and it is why our county suffers disproportionately during every economic downturn. And remember, like it or not, Nassau County is expected to be one of the five fastest growing counties in Florida. So, we have a choice – smart growth or past practices.