Submitted by Suanne Z. Thamm
Reporter – News Analyst
July 3, 2014 11:00 a.m.
At the request of Mayor Ed Boner, Executive Director Steve Rieck of the Nassau County Economic Development Board Updated the Fernandina Beach City Commission (FBCC) on recent activities promoting local economic development. Rieck spoke at the July 1, 2014 Regular FBCC meeting. He presented a series of slides focusing on business recruitment and marketing; business expansion and workforce development; government affairs; and communications and public relations.
Business Recruitment & Marketing
Rieck recapped efforts to attract a Fortune 500 company to build a manufacturing site in West Nassau County, in an area known as the Crawford Diamond. While the county site was one of two possibilities considered in the state of Florida, efforts were unsuccessful in landing the business, although valuable information was gleaned to help in future efforts. Other efforts involved participating in a site selection showcase called “By the Shore,” in partnership with JAXUSA in April. The NCEDB has also been working with Nassau County to capitalize on state economic development incentives and institute local incentives such as expedited permitting and economic development grants.
Rieck cited three projects representing a $6.1M capital investment over 5 years that are creating 112 jobs. One project—Project Blister—seeks to bring a manufacturing company to Fernandina Beach. He reported on the results of a business retention survey as well as a presentation to local high school juniors and seniors on soft skills needed for success in today’s business market. Rieck spoke about the NCEDB/UNF Small Business Development Partnership, highlighting the work of Tracy Nazzaro, Nassau County’s Certified Business Analyst.
The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has authorized a million dollars to plan and design an above-grade crossing over CSX tracks at the Crawford Diamond Industrial Park. Rieck indicated that NCEDB has identified 5 job opportunity areas in the city of Fernandina Beach and has been a member of the Affordable Housing Working Group. He cited work being done on 8th Street by the LDC/ED Working Group. He said that in response to a question on a public survey, available on the city website fbfl.us, the top 4 words used to describe 8th Street today are ugly, shabby, run-down, eyesore. In describing how survey respondents would describe how 8th Street could look in the future, the four most mentioned words were welcoming, inviting, attractive, gateway.
Rieck and his team have collected and distributed to civic groups, potential investors and the public many studies and presentations on the income and demographics of both the city and the county to assist in understanding the need for and value of economic development efforts. Rieck added that it is difficult for individuals to grasp why economic development should be important to them on a personal level. He said, “If we are concerned about our kids having jobs here and places to live, if we want reasonable tax rates, we must understand that we need a diverse economy.”
At the conclusion of his presentation Rieck told commissioners that he would be retiring from his position in September. Mayor Boner thanked him for his service, and added, “You will be hard to replace.” Rieck left the meeting with the individual commissioner’s thanking him and applauding his efforts over the past 7 years.
“This is one of those letters a person only gets to write once in his lifetime,” Rieck wrote, “so I hope I get it right. It is with a deeply bittersweet feeling that I am letting you know that I will retire on September 30, 2014. This decision comes after prayerful consideration and long conversations with Nancy and my children.
“Before the Great Recession hit, my plan was to retire at age 62 and enjoy whatever remaining years of good health the Lord might give me. Nancy and I had already found the perfect place we wanted to enjoy our “golden years,” and I made Nassau County my home in 2007. The past six and a half years have been a blessing for me in all that we have been able to accomplish together as a team committed to making Nassau County a great place for new job creation, capital investment, and a wonderful place to live.
“I cannot begin to convey my gratitude for what the Nassau County Economic Development Board has been able to accomplish during my tenure as your Executive Director. It has been a pleasure to work with you and so many fine business and community leaders over the years.
“Nancy and I will remain in Nassau County and I hope to be able to continue to contribute my time and talents to those community causes that I care so deeply about.”
The Nassau County Economic Development Board (NCEDB) is supported by a public-private partnership that includes the county municipalities as well as businesses and organizations that support the economic development efforts of the Board. The NCEDB office is located at the Betty P. Cook Center of the Florida State College at Jacksonville, 76346 William Burgess Boulevard, Yulee, FL 32097 Phone: (904) 225-8878 or (800) 671-6774.
Editor’s Note: Suanne Z. Thamm is a native of Chautauqua County, NY, who moved to Fernandina Beach from Alexandria,VA, in 1994. As a long time city resident and city watcher, she provides interesting insight into the many issues that impact our city. We are grateful for Suanne’s many contributions to the Fernandina Observer.