August/September Business View Magazine

238 239 LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA in a lot of other places, our investment in public infrastructure provided much needed leverage for private investments and provided our community with a positional advantage.” “Some ten years ago now, as the American economy was in the middle of the collapse and none of us knew how deep it would go or how long it would last, Leon County made a conscious effort to try and advance as many public infra- structure projects as we possibly could,” Long continues. “So, anything that was on our books for the next ten years, we tried to get out the door and on the street. Projects we knew were needed and we would be doing in the foreseeable future, we pushed out with a sense of urgency to create those jobs while the jobs were needed the most – and, as an added benefit - while the costs at the time were the cheapest and most affordable for the taxpayer.” One of those projects was a corridor street that bifurcated the two major universities, Florida A&M and Florida State. At the time it was a strip of abandoned warehouses with a few businesses that were hanging on. “And the public did a lot of the early work,” Long says, “the non-sexy work, the sewer, the road work. The land aggregation was also key to attracting private sector reinvest- ment in an era of constrained lending and limited working capital. This was a critical time for the public sector to really understand the private sec- tor.”“The work of the public sector literally paved the way (pun intended) for all of the private sector investment which followed,” said private sector developer Steve Ghazvini. And that understanding has paid off. To date, there has been over $32 million of public invest- ment in about a mile-long stretch which, in turn, attracted $400 million in private investment. “It VINCE LONG COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR doesn’t even resemble the area of town it was a very, very short time ago,” Long remarks. “We had basically no retail in this area and now we have over 150,000 square feet of retail.We have two hotels with about 300 rooms, 30 new businesses, and about 15 new high-end housing units and we are not even counting all the projects that are in the works. Those are just the proj- ects that have been done. There are over a hundred million in projects in the process and even more in the planning stage.” “If you read our County Strategic Plan,” Long points out, “it says ‘do well-designed public infrastructure that attracts business and private investment.’ It doesn’t say, ‘fix potholes;’ it doesn’t say ‘reduce traffic,’ or some of the things that you would more commonly associate with a county’s strategic plan. Of course, we have to do those things, but we can do better. And I think that has made all the difference.”