Second economic development meeting held

Published: Thursday, October 10, 2013 at 02:18 PM.

The weaknesses included lack of water/sewer infrastructure and the lack of properties available for industrial development.

The Chamber of Commerce went through a similar process in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Former Chamber Director O.L. “Ole” Ellis Jr. opened the symposium by telling the audience about his early experiences with the Washington County Chamber and some of the early successes of the county, including WestPoint Home and Wal-Mart.

“When we look back, we can learn from past successes, and see what we did right, and what we did wrong,” Ellis said. One of the early tasks the chamber faced in working on economic development was the preparation of a slide show to use to promote the county before both state officials and potential industries which may be looking to locate in Florida.

“We had to prepare an inventory of our assets — Washington-Holmes Technical Center, the Department of Transportation, the Panhandle Area Educational Consortium, the Interstate — and then we worked on our marketing technology,” Ellis said. That technology in 1980 included a slide show, which eventually was upgraded to a VHS cassette.

Ellis also stressed the importance of cooperation between the city and county officials in landing important economic developments such as WestPoint Home and Wal-Mart. It took work between the County Commissioners, the City Council and the Planning Commissioners to put together the properties, to fund the needed upgrades to utilities, and to present a professional front to the potential industries.

“If a local effort is not in place, then the desired results will not be achieved,” he said.

“Above all else, industries are looking for stability,” said Terry Ellis, manager of WestPoint Home and son of Ole Ellis.

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