BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Alison Sherman, like so many others, is forced to leave Bay County after her husband’s job was relocated because of Hurricane Michael.
“Tyndall Air Force base is gone, it'll probably come up in five or six years or whatever, but my husband worked for Pratt and Whitney--contract--so we are told we are moving to Langley, Virginia,” said Sherman.
She's not alone. According to a Facebook poll we conducted, nearly a quarter of respondents say they have already moved or would consider moving out of Bay County.
According to Gulf Power, approximately 10,000 homes in Bay County cannot safely take electricity. This may result from a variety of reasons--their home may have not been inspected yet and residents may be temporarily living elsewhere, or they may have in fact left for good.
The Bay County Supervisor of Elections Office says more than 3,000 voters have moved their registrations, and school enrollment is down 12.5 percent.
"I am concerned about people leaving Lynn Haven and, of course, we have the same problem that people all over Bay County do and that is housing, especially affordable housing," said Lynn Haven Mayor Margo Anderson.
Bay County Commissioner Robert Carroll says addressing housing is the first step in regrowing the population. "We need to work with our federal government and our state government to make sure there's tax incentives to get outside developers to bring capital in here to build more houses, to build more affordable houses," he said.
One of those incentives is known as an enterprise zone. "It allows some tax reductions where it's kind of revolved in. It's kind of like a CRA, you have a community redevelopment area, it allows that money to work within that and there's a tax incentive if you invest within that area," explained Caroll.
For Mayor Anderson, the solution to revitalization lies in small businesses. She said, "We're looking to continue our plan of developing Florida Avenue in the historic district with shops, boutiques, we already have a coffee shop, we've got a little restaurant. So small business is the heart of every community, I believe."
But the road to recovery is a long one and some don't have time. So the question remains--will you be leaving? Or will you be among those who will stick around for the long haul?