Economic development in Flagler County is on a roll, the county’s director of the Department of Economic Opportunity told county commissioners during Monday’s regular meeting.
Economic development in Flagler County is on a roll, the county’s director of the Department of Economic Opportunity told county commissioners during Monday’s regular meeting. “It’s gone even better than I imagined it would,” said Helga van Eckert.
It was a year ago March 1 that van Eckert moved to the county to take over as executive director of newly formed department. “We hit the ground running,” van Eckert said of the top priority, marketing, that was outlined during the strategic planning session held shortly after her arrival. “We have a new logo and a new tagline: business to beaches.” The four other top priorities — partner locally, develop strategic relationships, identify target industries, and create a growth toolbox — are also on target, she reported.
Commissioner George Hanns said van Eckert’s hard work and dedication is evident.
“You have a lot of good things going on,” he said. Some of the priorities work in concert, van Eckert said. She spoke of “maintaining an open dialog” with companies such as Florida Power and Light, which in turn helps her work with companies that might not otherwise consider Florida — like one that is concerned about high humidity. “You can overcome humidity,” van Eckert said, “but it costs money. We can go to FPL and see about discounted rates for a big user.”
Van Eckert also mentioned four successes including: convincing Coastal Cloud to bring additional business here; selling Flagler County as the location for National Site Selector Conference in both 2012 and again this June; Designs for Health, a nutraceutical (vitamins and supplements) company, has grown from the 10 employees it started with last April to its current 17; and W.P. Rawl, the new agricultural company in the western portion of the county, which now “has walls.”
“It is important that we show we are professionals,” van Eckert said. “Our ‘Who do you know?’ campaign has been very successful.” She said it is that campaign that ultimately led to Coastal Cloud landing in Flagler Beach.
Tim and Sara Hale, who own Coastal Cloud, already lived in the area, she said, but could have chosen anywhere in the country to locate its headquarters. “They’ve been here for a number of years but knew they were going to expand,” she said. “Tim and Sara had roots everywhere in the United States, because their 18 other employees are all around the country.” Commissioner Barbara Revels, who is also a member of the Economic Opportunity Advisory Council, said things are looking up for the county. “Besides the great stories she told today, we’ve had some extremely large companies look us over who are still in the decision-making process,” Revels said after the meeting. “There are two more, and we’ve applied with the state for incentive packages to help bring them here.”
Van Eckert has also been assisting Palm Coast, Revels said, to help bring additional business to the city. “If we get half of what we’ve got in the works right now, it will really knock down unemployment,” Revels said. “It won’t be next month, or in six months, but it will happen.”