Editor’s note: The following blog is taken from opening remarks presented by Glades EDC Executive Director Tracy Whirls at the recent Discussion with FDOT Secretary Anath Prasad event held Jan. 30, 2014 at the Glades County Health Department.

2014 is going to be a great year in Glades County. We have a new board of County Commissioners who are very engaged in economic development. We have a new commission chair, Commissioner Donna Storter Long, who will be joining the EDC board at our February meeting. We have a new County Manager, Paul Carlisle, who started January 2 and has hit the ground running.

Below, you’ll see a combined site plan for the Glades County Business and Commerce Park, just south of the Glades County Detention Center on SR 78, and the entrance of Americas Gateway Logistics Center on US 27. The county has set aside $1.3 million in reserves toward infrastructure improvements for their business park—not bad for the fifth poorest county in the state and we’re working to secure grant funding to extend that infrastructure into AGLC. The sewer line in the business park is already in place, and pending some assistance from our friends at FDOT, we hope to get the rest of the infrastructure, including turn lanes off SR 78 in place in the business park this year.

All of this is taking place in anticipation of breaking ground on the Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center—a 40,000 square foot building which will house office and classroom space for Edison Community College, a truck driver training school and office space for Career Source SWFL—the new name for Southwest FL Works. The goal is for classes at GLMTC to start in January 2015, with courses available for un- and underemployed adults—be they veterans, TANF recipients or high school students post-graduation who aren’t already on track to go to college—your traditionally unemployed. They’ll be able to go to the Glades Commerce Center, have workforce assess their skills and job readiness, then enroll in the training center and earn 12 hours in materials management, handling and shipping—skills which they can then apply toward an associate’s degree at Edison. Or they can go down the hall and sign up for truck driver training with a better understanding of how products are moved or they can go to the One Stop Center and apply for a job at any regional manufacturer, whether they package and ship mortar and grout like our new Greencore plant in Ortona, or mulch at Scotts Miracle Gro in Palmdale, or Wedgworth, or Oldcastle or USSC—you get the idea.

We’re working with the Florida Manufacturing Association, Edison and others now to start lining up a manufacturing curriculum to augment our offerings in logistics. Our intent is that as new manufacturers locate at the Glades County Business and Commerce Park or AGLC—and we’re in final negotiations with the first and met recently with a second—we will have a pipeline of trained workers for those companies to choose from.

The second component of the Glades Commerce Center—which you haven’t heard anything about yet, is an incubator, which will give companies looking to break into the Florida market an opportunity to secure affordable office and warehouse space to begin operations while build to suit space can be constructed at either the Glades County Commerce Park or AGLC. In discussions with Latin American consultants and the German American Chamber of Commerce, we’re told this is exactly what they need—space with low overhead to start operations and training to insure their workforce needs are met.

I’ve saved the best for last. By September 2014, we hope to begin construction of a travel center with six diesel lanes, six gasoline lanes, a convenience store, fast food restaurant and other amenities. The travel center, which is expected to employ as many as 60 Glades County and area residents, is the first phase of a planned trucking node to serve truck drivers transporting product to and from South Florida ports. It will be the only facility of its kind on US 27 and a perfect staging area for truckers timing pickup and delivery to Port Everglades and Port Miami, among others. We’ve been following Florida’s Freight Primer and we’re ready, willing and able to meet the needs of Florida freight carriers, by truck, and in the not too distant future, by rail, at AGLC specifically or Glades County generally.

I spend a lot of time attending economic development meetings on the regional and state level, and I can tell you that what we’re doing here in little ole Glades County is being watched. Our plans for the Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center, the Glades Commerce Center incubator and Americas Gateway are the envy of other counties across the state. Some would like to see us fumble, so they could try to pick up the ball and run with it. But I am confident that with the continued support of the elected officials in Glades County, who have adopted the most business friendly comprehensive plan in the state and the most aggressive tax abatement program out there; coupled with the support of our business partners, and most importantly the support of the residents of Glades County, we’re going to win this game. Residents of Glades County want to see new jobs created for themselves, their children and grandchildren. They want to see their property taxes go down, new housing opportunities and new businesses go up and they want to win the competition for economic development -- and make no mistake it is a competition and it’s going to take team work.

So I want to thank my EDC board and our public private partners for their continued support. I want to ask anyone who’s not a member to join us in our efforts and to encourage others to do the same and I want to encourage those already on our team to up their game.

Just like the Glades County Health Department and Florida Community Health Centers which are hosting us today was built and is ready to serve not just Glades County residents, but new businesses needing workers comp and other services; Just like the Glades County Sheriff’s Office just south of us here, which provides security not just for residents but for businesses in Glades County; just like the new Emergency Operations Center which will be built just north of here and provide emergency management, fire and EMS services to Glades County residents and new businesses that locate here—allowing companies that locate here to enjoy substantial savings on their insurance, by the way; just like the new Moore Haven Junior Senior High School which will prepare students not just to continue training or go to work here, but to ultimately become doctors, lawyers, engineers and accountants to serve businesses that will be built here—all of these, as well as the Gateway Logistics and Manufacturing Training Center and Americas Gateway Logistics Center are Glades County projects which will directly benefit Glades County residents, their children and grandchildren; as well as our neighbors in the FHREDI, SWFL and Southern Florida regions and ultimately the state.