A plan to review economic development zones could directly impact the Big Bend. Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth) wants to renew the program and keep the more than 60 economic development zones from expiring this year. He says the current way the state encourages businesses to move into depressed areas, needs to be revamped—if the program hopes to survive.
“You have to understand[that] 15-to-20 jobs in Tallahassee may not make a difference but in Wakulla it makes all the difference in the world. Those are 15 -to-20 more families you’re able to feed in a relatively rural area. I think there’s potential we may develop different requirements for urban and rural enterprise zones and look at those differently," Clemens says.
State reports on economic zones show little return on investments, but Clemens says that’s the wrong way of looking at it—and suggests the benefits are more visible at the local level. He believes the zones should be measured according to what they bring to local communities—not whether they return a profit to the state.
“The studies we’ve seen have focused largely on the state benefit, but have minimized the local benefit or the societal benefit of bringing economic development to blighted areas.”
Clemens’ proposal would shut down economic zones that aren’t generating new businesses and require the rest to generate reports on their efforts. Clemens will have to convince fellow Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice). She chairs the chamber’s commerce and tourism committee—which would have to hear Clemens’ bill if it gets a shot.