Newberry, Florida – Alachua County

April 22, 2024

Newberry, Florida

Newberry, Florida: Rooted in Tradition, Cultivating Business Growth

 

Close-knit and resident-focused with an eye to the future

Initially established as a mining hub following the discovery of phosphate, Newberry pivoted to agriculture in 1914 when the outbreak of war severed ties with its primary phosphate customer, Germany. Today, agriculture thrives in Newberry, symbolized by its celebrated Watermelon Festival. Mayor Jordan Marlowe reflects on the town’s journey with pride and admiration, underlining how challenges spurred ingenuity and communal unity among its inhabitants.

Adra Kennard, Chamber President, emphasizes the town’s distinctive character, rooted in its close-knit, family-oriented atmosphere. “It’s community; I cannot emphasize that enough,” she states. “Knowing your neighbor, educators, coaches—it’s what sets us apart.”

Bryan Thomas, Director of Planning and Economic Development, offers a perspective on Newberry’s economic evolution. He sheds light on the town’s dynamic pursuit of sports tourism as an economic driver, drawing significant crowds to its sporting events. However, recognizing the need for strategic refinement, Newberry is ready to embark on a new trajectory, exemplified by the agricultural park development project.

 

Propelling Newberry’s economic growth

Highlighting the town’s aspirations to diversify its industrial base, Newberry prioritizes cleaner industries to align with evolving environmental standards. The town is also exploring opportunities to expand its commercial sector amidst significant residential growth over the past decade.

Despite the challenges posed by rapid growth, Newberry has maintained an impressive growth rate exceeding 5% for a decade. Thomas attributes this success to the vigilant stewardship of elected officials, who have consistently prioritized providing top-notch infrastructure to accommodate the town’s expansion.

Constructing an advanced treatment wastewater facility—estimated to cost between $50 and $75 million—is at the forefront of these developments. Thomas stresses its importance for meeting immediate needs and laying the groundwork for the next two decades of Newberry’s growth.

Establishing an agricultural technology park exemplifies Newberry’s dedication to preserving tradition and embracing innovation. Partnerships, particularly with the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), are instrumental in bridging the gap between research and practical application. Through these collaborations, Newberry seeks to create a fertile ground for agricultural technology innovations, fostering economic growth and expanding employment opportunities within the town.

Additionally, GBM Global’s contribution to advancing Newberry’s agricultural development vision cannot be overstated. This partnership underscores a mutual dedication to harnessing technology and research to propel Newberry into a new era of agricultural merit.

The rise of residential communities

Newberry’s remarkable growth is particularly evident in its housing sector. Mayor Marlowe reveals impressive figures, highlighting the town’s emergence as an expanding residential hub. With over 6,000 housing permits approved and another application pending, Newberry is the fastest-growing community in Alachua County.

He quickly acknowledges the intricate dance between progress and infrastructure. “It’s not just about building homes; it’s about ensuring our infrastructure can support this unprecedented growth,” he asserts. “These developments operate on cycles spanning 15 to 50 years, signaling a commitment to sustained progress.”

With an eye towards the future, Mayor Marlowe hopes Newberry’s robust growth will insulate it from economic downturns. “Agriculture and construction remain pillars of our economy,” he explains. We aim to create a recession-proof community by nurturing these industries alongside our increasing residential landscape.”

Newberry’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

In economic opportunity, Kennard extols Newberry’s virtues as a haven for entrepreneurs and investors alike. “Navigating the path to success is made easier here,” she explains; with a supportive municipal framework and a clear vision for the future, Newberry attracts individuals searching for abundant ground for their entrepreneurial endeavors.”

Her sentiments are echoed by success stories within the community—testimonies to Newberry’s capacity to nurture and facilitate growth. From fitness centers doubling in size to new restaurants flourishing, the town’s entrepreneurial spirit is palpable. “Beyond It Matters Fitness, Stonehouse restaurant, and a host of smaller businesses have thrived amidst adversity,” Kennard proudly recounts. “And as we look to the future, opportunities abound, particularly in healthcare—a sector primed for growth and investment in our fiercely loyal community.”

Thomas elaborates on Newberry’s incentive programs to attract and support targeted industries while fostering economic growth. He highlights the town’s proactive approach to incentivizing investment and emphasizes the diverse benefits available to businesses looking to establish or expand their presence in Newberry.

One key incentive is property tax rebates tailored for industries aligned with Newberry’s economic priorities, including agriculture, manufacturing, defense, and space-related sectors. This initiative encourages the growth of these industries and extends support to existing businesses that meet the criteria. Furthermore, Newberry offers facade grants, covering up to 50% of facade improvements, demonstrating a commitment to enhancing the aesthetic appeal of commercial properties.

Thomas also highlights a unique incentive tailored to commercial development, particularly exemplified by the forthcoming Publix supermarket. Newberry can offer rebates for commercial development fees, providing substantial financial assistance of up to $30,000 towards various expenses such as rezoning, site plan approval, and building permits.

More discussions involve implementing impact fees for transportation and public services to ensure the town’s infrastructure keeps pace with growth. However, Newberry mitigates the impact of these fees through rebates, further incentivizing commercial development and investment.

The comprehensive toolbox of incentives and the eagerness of elected officials to deploy them strategically are underlined. These initiatives reflect Newberry’s proactive stance in fostering a favorable business environment, aimed to attract a diverse range of commercial and industrial enterprises and ultimately contribute to the town’s continued prosperity and vitality.

 

Newberry’s festive traditions

The illustrious Watermelon Festival is at the core of Newberry’s heritage, a cornerstone of the town’s identity. Mayor Marlowe proudly highlights its distinction as the “longest continuous running watermelon festival in America.” Kennard, a Newberry native, marvels at the festival’s organization solely by volunteers, a tribute to the community’s dedication and passion.

The festival is a mosaic of delights, offering everything from contests to crafts, music, and the iconic watermelon seed-spitting competition. But beyond the festivities lies a deeper sense of unity, where residents and elected officials come together to celebrate tradition and camaraderie.

Homecoming holds a special place in the hearts of Newberry residents, particularly for the town’s football team. Mayor Marlowe reminisces about the spirited displays of school pride, with students taking charge to organize floats and parades, showcasing their creativity and teamwork.

Kennard illuminates other community traditions, such as the Newberry Area Chamber’s “First Fridays.” This emerging tradition offers families a chance to unwind and connect in the historic downtown area, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie.

The festivities aren’t confined to the warmer months; Christmas heralds a season of joy and togetherness in Newberry. The town’s ambitious initiative to become the “Christmas capital of Alachua County” is reflected in elaborate celebrations, including a Christmas parade and vintage market. The tree lighting ceremony, spanning three Saturdays, is the crowning jewel of the holiday season, radiating warmth and goodwill.

Embracing a visionary future

Exciting projects loom on the horizon, including installing the longest zipline in Florida—a venture expected to draw tourists and bolster the local economy. Additionally, the imminent opening of a major Publix supermarket promises to spur further development and investment in the community.

Looking ahead to the future, Mayor Marlowe underlines the town’s focus on managing growth while preserving its unique character and values. Initiatives such as impact fees on new developments and enhanced development standards reflect a commitment to sustainable progress and thoughtful urban planning.

“Newberry isn’t just a town; it’s a welcoming community where everyone finds a place to belong. From sharing traditions to fostering genuine connections, we’re proud to offer the true Southern dream experience to all who call Newberry home.”

AT A GLANCE

Newberry, Florida

What:  A town with deep mining origins to its current thriving agricultural, residential, and business sectors, showcasing its commitment to sustainable growth and community development.

Where: Newberry, Florida, located in the Southwest corner of Alachua County, approx. 15 miles West of Gainesville.

Website: https://www.newberryfl.gov/

PREFERRED VENDORS

eda consultants, inc – https://edafl.com/

Brief company description- eda consultants, inc. has been providing professional surveying, land planning & civil engineering to the North Central Florida area for nearly 50 years. We have completed dozens of successful projects in and around Newberry, and are a trusted development partner of the City of Newberry government.

Porta Serve – PortaServe.com

George F. Young – georgefyoung.com

Newberry Area Chamber of Commerce – https://newberryareachamber.com/

Archer Automotive & Diesel Repair – www.archerautomotiverepair.net

Green Construction & Development Inc. – www.GreenConstruction1.com

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