CHIPLEY - For the second time in a week, local leaders came together in a "super meeting" at Panhandle Area Educational Consortium (PAEC) in Chipley to discuss future growth.
Chipley Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA), Chipley City Council, and Washington County Board of County Commissioners met Tuesday to discuss strategies to ensure Chipley's future economic development.
Just last week, Chipley City Council members and Washington County Commissioners held the county's first-ever super meeting to discuss the community's future, as well as well as current needs.
Hosted by the West Florida Regional Planning Council (WFRPC), Tuesday's meeting was a requirement of a $25,000 Department of Economic Opportunity grant that is being used to facilitate technical assistance and administrative costs associated with updating the CRA strategic plan.
“The intent of the super meeting was to talk about strategies and how to improve on the plan with those strategies,” said Caitlin Cerame of WFRPC.
Strategies discussed include wayfaring signage, making improvements to downtown to make it more attractive to shoppers, and possibly adding a new attraction to draw people in.
All in attendance agreed there is a need for incentives to be in place to make downtown more marketable to walking traffic and to new businesses. These incentives could be revamped storefronts, better lighting, walking areas, and the allure of more growth for local businesses.
Falling Waters State Park was listed as a huge draw for the area, but it the popular park is more than a mile from Downtown Chipley. Officials say finding a way to incorporate the two could mean great economic growth for the county.
“Why aren’t we linking downtown to Falling Waters?” asked Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ted Everett.
One proposal to accomplish linking the two locations is to develop a walking trail so people can bike, walk, or jog between the two points.
Officials also mulled the possibility of taking advantage of the popularity of the Panhandle Watermelon Festival to help market the city. Last year's festival drew more than 6,000 attendees, a fact that officials say means opportunity exists to entice those who visit for the festival to return to the area.
“Can the CRA set up a booth at the festival and hand out pamphlets that advertise other attractions to help pull visitors in?” suggested Commissioner Alan Bush.
With several new strategies on the table, the next step is to figure out how to bring each to fruition and continue to work together to brighten Chipley’s economic development.
“This is the beginning of the conversation,” said Cerame.