Josh Wooten/Special to the Chronicle
For several decades, Citrus County’s economy has centered on the Crystal River energy complex, home-building, tourism, health care, and service- based industries.
While we are blessed to have this core base for employment opportunities, the economic recession that hit Citrus County so hard 10 years ago and took our community much longer to recover from than many other regions, gives cause to raising questions about our county’s economic future.
Is Citrus County’s economy diversified enough? Are we more susceptible to downturns and recessions than other areas of the state and nation? Do we have enough industry that sustains our community and pays a living wage? Can we hold on to the talented young people who graduate from our excellent schools and give them opportunities to remain in Citrus County to develop into our future leaders?
Most people would say no, and relevant data backs that up. That is not to say that Citrus County hasn’t made great strides over the years. However, in order to continue our forward movement and ensure that our business growth protects our community’s future, we must plan for our destiny.
The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, along with Leadership Citrus and other partners, embarked in January on a year-long Citrus 2030 visioning process led by our Tax Collector Janice Warren, Chamber Board Chair David Reed, and a dedicated volunteer steering committee.
Its purpose was to review, inventory and update the Citrus 20/20 vision that originally began in 1995 to look 25 years into our future. Several economic development dreams back then have become reality, including the establishment of a flourishing YMCA, extending water and sewer service to the county’s coastal and lakes regions, and creating a county-wide bus system.
More recently, the Citrus County Office of Economic Development created an economic development strategic plan with target industry recommendations. The recommendations include business support, healthcare, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage production, wholesale trade and logistics, and information and professional/technical services. These are all areas that complement, as well as support the existing businesses in Citrus County that are the valued fabric of our community.
But now it is time to hear from you — the citizens of Citrus County. Are we going in the right direction? How do we best blend our economic development needs to provide the goods and services most required by our citizens and visitors while protecting our natural beauty and resources?
We invite you to get involved in Citrus 2030. Participate in the Vision Fest on Oct. 5 at the College of Central Florida and let your voice be heard. Be a part of Citrus County’s Destiny by Design.
To contribute your assessment of Citrus County’s positioning for the future, please visit the Citrus 2030 website at www.citrus2030.org and click on SURVEY. If you would like to be a participant in the Citrus 2030 Vision Check on Oct. 5 at the College of Central Florida Citrus Campus Conference Center in Lecanto, please complete Question No. 20 of the survey.
Josh Wooten is the President /CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. A member of the Citrus 2030 Steering Committee, he co-chairs the Economic Development Aspiration Subcommittee.