ARPC addresses Carrabelle's economic growth strategy

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For those who want to delve into Carrabelle’s economic development strategy, there’s now a thorough report that they can sink their teeth into.

Caroline Smith, economic development manager for the Apalachee Regional Planning Council on Oct. 7 delivered to city commissioners, and the general public, the result of a 2020 Competitive Florida Partnership grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Hampered a bit over the past 18 months by COVID-19 restrictions, the ARPC relied on socially distanced in-person workshops streamed over Facebook, as well as a survey of assets done by using drone photographs, videos and other research to mimic an in-person tour of Carrabelle.

The project focused on four goals, the first to revitalize the character of downtown Carrabelle through historic preservation, business diversification, and waterfront improvements.

The second goals was to promote job retention and creation, and vocational training, and third to “set the stage for responsible development through policymaking, code enforcement, and environmental preservation.”

Lastly, the fourth goal is to promote tourism and recreational opportunities.

The challenge for Carrabelle is brought into focus early in the report, in the portion on socio-economic indictors.

The report cites a poverty rate of nearly 30 percent, with only about 10 percent of the city’s population having a college degree. The median income is a little more than $38,000 annually, lower than the county as a whole. The city and has a population of 2,646.

Interestingly, close to 90 percent of the 451 people employed inside the city live outside the city. Of the 570 people in the workforce who live in Carrabelle, more than 90 percent work outside the city.

In an examination of what is know as SWOT, which encapsulates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to economic development, the reports sees as strengths the numbers of engaged residents and businesses, the dedicated city staff and elected officials and the natural environment.

The weaknesses, it notes, are the reliance on a single industry – tourism, the underutilized harbor, the limited commercial dockage and problems with cleanliness, such as littering and trash pick-up.

Opportunities include local business retention and expansion, vocational training and new and revised ordinances.

Threats to economic development are said to be economic downturns and recessions, natural disasters, local business closures and “development that does not fit city character.”

The report outlines the city’s key assets, which is lists as the Carrabelle-Thompson Airport. the nearly 62,000-square-foot Carrabelle Industrial Building; the historic old water plant targeted for rehabilitation and commercialization; Millender & Sons Seafood; the Gulfside IGA; C-Quarters Marina; Johnsons Carrabelle Marina; the MS Dockside Marina on Timber Island; Moorings of Carrabelle; Weems Medical Center East; St. James Health and Rehabilitation Center; and several other smaller businesses.

The report cites historic and cultural assets, everything from the Crooked River Lighthouse to museums; government and civic assets, such as City Hall and the library; as well as environmental and recreational assets, such as Tate’s Hell State Forest, the Apalachicola National Forest. Carrabelle Beach, Carrabelle Riverwalk and Wharf; Sands Memorial Park; Will Kendrick Sports Complex; Tillie Miller Park; and the St. James Bay Golf Club.

As for meeting goals, the report cites the creation of a public seafood dock as a key element to revitalize Carrabelle’s historic working waterfront; the redevelopment of the old water plant as well as along NW Avenue B; the boosting of the commercial fishing district; the revitalization of Marine Street and the waterfront; and preservation of the historic district.

The report notes an effort to boost local job training, and to recruit new businesses, including attracting more fine dining options and a local pharmacy.

Among the efforts it cites to boost community pride is reviewing zoning ordinances, addressing trash pick-up and code enforcement, especially along the waterways and beaches; attracting developers for subdivisions, addressing building and design standards; reviewing the city’s alcohol ordinance, ity’s alcohol ordinance and provide recommendations to city for revising the ordinance. ARPC could potentially work on this mini-project at no-cost to city.

The report also mentions a community forestry program to protect canopy trees; support of improvements to Island View Park; a designation as a birding and butterfly trail; use of vista parks at the city-owned street ends.; promotion of low-impact nature-based outdoor recreation; continuing to connect sewer and water and to install monofilament, trash, and cigarette butt collection stations throughout the Waterfront District; and improvements to the stormwater management program.

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