Task force members enthusiastic after hearing companies are interested in creating manufacturing plans on land in eastern part of the county.
The work of national timber company Plum Creek and its Envision Alachua task force may soon start paying off. According to senior director of real estate Todd Powell, interest in the company’s land near Hawthorne is growing—but there is more work to be done before it brings jobs to the area.
Although he declined to discuss specifics, Powell says that companies are interested in creating manufacturing plants on Plum Creek land that the task force has identified as the potential location for development.
The task force embraced the good news.
“The key to prosperity is long-range planning, but we need to be prepared for opportunities as they arise,” said Rob Brinkman, a task force member and longtime environmental advocate, at a recent meeting.
To meet the requirements of a new company, Plum Creek would need to accelerate its planning process for the 17,000 acres between Hawthorne and Newnans Lake that’s targeted for mixed use, including manufacturing and distribution facilities, housing, stores, schools and preservation areas, Brinkman notes.
The progress on Innovation Square serves as a good model, Brinkman says. “People were amazed at how fast it moved forward.”
Other task force members shared the enthusiasm about potential jobs. “The major challenge for me is to contain my enthusiasm,” says Adrian Taylor, senior minister of Springhill Missionary Baptist Church in Gainesville.
Jobs that are created shouldn’t be limited to ones requiring high skill levels, cautions Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce president Tim Giuliani. “This is about creating economic opportunities for everybody,” he says.
Task force member Vivian Filer says Santa Fe College needs to help train workers in areas that don’t require a college degree. “I pay my plumber more than I pay the guy who teaches my how to use my computer,” she says.
The task force spent more than a year developing general recommendations for the company’s 65,000 acres in Alachua County. Now, Plum Creek has asked the task force to develop specific ideas for the land.
Plum Creeks want to avoid developing its land in a scattered manner, favoring compact development that leaves much of the land for conservation, Powell says.
The company has created a technical advisory committee, made up of representatives of state and local agencies, to help with the process.
Both groups will help Plum Creek develop a sector plan, which is a planning mechanism under Florida law for planning the development of property that is more than 15,000 acres.
Plum Creek, which is the largest private landowner nationally, has hired Sasaki Associates, a Boston-based planning and design firm, to assist in creating a master plan.
Sasaki helped in planning the Olympic Green, the main venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and in creating master plans for university campuses, including Florida State University, the University of Minnesota and the Ohio State University.
MIG Inc., based in Berkley, Calif., continues to facilitate the Envision Alachua process.
The next task force meeting will be at 6:30 pm Jan. 24 at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center.
A community workshop is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Martin Luther King Center, 1028 N.E. 14th St., Gainesville (off Waldo Road).
Plum Creek requests that people attending events RSVP to www.envisionalachua.com.