Valentino shares his plan (updated)

May 14, 2009

Updated 11:42 am, May 15

Commissioner Gene Valentino gave the IN a peek into his black box to see his economic development plan. He will fully present his proposal –yes, it is on a DVD– at the joint meeting of the commission and the Pensacola City Council next Tuesday, May 19.

The plan calls for the formation of an independent economic development authority, Pensacola Escambia Development Authority (PEDA), that will be governed by 15-member board.

The five commissioners will each appoint one representative, Pensacola City Council two reps and Century Town Council one rep. Those eight members will appoint three people to represent Education, Military and Minority Interests. The remaining four members will be appointed from the general public by the other PEDA board members. The board will operate fully under the Florida Sunshine Laws.

According to Commissioner Valentino, PEDA will have an operating budget between $300,000-$600,000. It will be run by “Superstar” executive director that will operate outside the Sunshine laws and can sign confidentiality agreements with prospects.

“This director will be able to talk with the Bill Gates of the world,” says Valentino.

The funding for PEDA will come primarily from electric and gas franchise fees. The total $6 million to be raised increase will cost Escambia households an average $1.50 more per month. The fees will generate between $5.9-$8 million a year for PEDA to use as incentives to attract businesses.

Valentino described the Chamber’s proposal that Mort O’Sullivan presented in late March as a “Pay to Play” idea—meaning economic development is run by those individuals who put up the money.

“Under my plan, the entire community is invested in economic development,” says Valentino. “Experts have told me that ‘Pay to Play’ is a thing of the past that only benefits the few that are playing.

“It’s only natural for those who put up the money to expect a return on investment and try to promote their own interests.”

“This county has an identity crisis,” says County Administrator Bob McLaughlin. “Small towns build their identity around their chambers. Larger cities and counties move to a different approach.”

Commissioner Gene Valentino said that people at his precinct meeting are telling him that they want economic development moved out from under the Chamber.

“Business owners are leaving the Chamber because it has a small group dictating where we go,” says Valentino. “The community wants change.”

What’s next?
Commissioner Valentino will present his plan at the meeting next Tuesday. He will answer any questions. If there is a consensus to proceed, he will ask the city and county to study the specifics and come back in 30 days to discuss the recommendations from the two governments. It will also give time for others to bring forth their ideas.

“Then we can draft an inter-local agreement with intent to have it executed on or before October 1,” says Commissioner Valentino.


Here are the slides that are in the DVD presentation: GV plan

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