Gaetz: Panhandle ‘pathway of growth’

Published: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 11:04 AM.

CHIPLEY — Northwest Florida is positioned to be a leader in economic growth for the state, said state Senator Don Gaetz on Tuesday, June 18.

“We’re in the position to be a pathway of growth for not just Northwest Florida, but the entire state, in the next 10 to 15 years,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz (R-4th District) was in Chipley on Tuesday for a “Neighborhood Day,” visiting local officials and residents, starting with a visit to the Washington County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He also set up shop at the county Agricultural Center to meet with residents, addressed the Kiwanis Club, and met with Northwest Florida Community Hospital administration to discuss health care issues.

Gaetz currently serves as President of the Florida Senate. He was elected to the Senate in 2006 following six years as Superintendent of Schools in Okaloosa County. His senate district includes Okaloosa, Walton, Washington, Holmes, Jackson and Bay counties.
When the senate district boundaries were redrawn, Gaetz inherited Holmes, Jackson and Washington Counties. “I won the redistricting lottery,” Gaetz said. “I grew up in the rural Midwest, and this is where I feel more at home, more than anywhere else in Florida.”

A resident of Niceville, he said the economy in Niceville is tied to the military bases, tourism and the hospitality industry. While having a strong economic factor such as a military base can be a blessing for a community, if the base is shut down then the community is severely affected.

“Every time Washington gets a cold, we wind up with pneumonia,” Gaetz said. Sequestration has resulted in hundreds of furloughs for employees of the military bases, which will affect those surrounding communities.

Tourism is also an industry that is subject to downturns. “If you have a lot of people drown, or someone sees a shark, that can have a huge negative impact,” Gaetz said.

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