Jackson County economic development committee in the works

JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - For years, Jackson County officials have had their eyes on attracting big businesses, but now commissioners are trying new ways to boost economic development. They're shifting their focus to small businesses.

District Five commissioner Jim Peacock has proposed the idea of an economic development committee.

"The bottom line is, what he would like to do is have a committee appointed," Jackson County Administrator Ernie Padgett said. "Each commissioner will appoint one person, so that'll be five."

The Board can then add members as they see fit.

"Commissioner Peacock would like to get, say Chipola, a representative from there involved," Padgett said. "He would also like to get maybe a couple people from agribusiness involved."

Chipola College is striving to provide the workers necessary to meet the workforce demand.

"People are going to wear multiple hats in a small organization," Chipola College Dean of Workforce & Economic Development Darwin Gilmore said. "They're not going to be able to be so specialized and so focused, so that's why we work so hard at a comprehensive training program that allows our students to understand how to fit the pieces of the puzzle together."

Gilmore said protecting existing small businesses is important.

"They've been the ones who have been faithful to maintain and pay and do what they need to do for our community, even when the chips are down," Gilmore said. "They continue to sacrifice and do the things that we need to have good jobs."

Gilmore said Chipola College is committed to providing a talent supply that would work, no matter a company's size.

"I think the numbers are somewhere like 80 to 90 percent of jobs are with 20 people or less in the organization, the probability exists that you're going to be more effective when you target and zero in on small to medium opportunities," Gilmore said.

Padgett said there's no official date set for when the economic development committee will be formed.

Commissioners will bring their recommendations to Padgett as they decide.