Economic Summit Primes Growth in Southeast Volusia

The spirit of regional cooperation was in the air at New Smyrna Beach’s Brannon Center earlier this month for the 4th annual Southeast Volusia Regional Economic Summit. Sponsored by the Southeast Volusia Chamber of Commerce, the event featured presentations about smart growth, preserving community heritage and a roundtable discussion from city and county officials.

New Smyrna Beach Mayor Fred Cleveland opened the event with a welcome message for the local officials, community organizations and businesses represented at the summit.

“It’s so great to be here,” Cleveland said. “The tapestry of diversity we have here in this room is going to help us with the roadmap. We want your brainpower.”

Cleveland said the summit provides an opportunity for the region “to come together and make Volusia County an economic powerhouse.”

Bob Williams, chair of the SEV Chamber’s Advocacy & Economic Development Committee, kicked off the “meat and potatoes” of the summit with an overview of the organization’s regional strategic plan and a review of recent accomplishments.

Williams said the list of accomplishments includes regional infrastructure planning especially for transportation, utilities and stormwater management; zoning and land uses in West Edgewater and West New Smyrna Beach; education and workforce development gains including engineering and medical academies at New Smyrna Beach High School; regional collaboration with city and county partnerships; and resilience issues.

“Ultimately, it’s about collaboration,” he said. “This is our opportunity to really come together as a region.”

Those cooperative efforts can diversify the local tax base, ensure wealth and resilience for the community and improve the quality of life, which is “directly related to having a vibrant business community,” Williams said.

Williams also highlighted several county infrastructure projects that support the Chamber’s regional economic strategy, including the Southeast Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility to expand capacity and improve the water quality in Mosquito Lagoon; the Indian Harbor Estates sewer retrofit completed earlier this year in cooperation with the city of Oak Hill and other utility system extensions in Oak Hill.

Volusia County Manager George Recktenwald, who participated in the roundtable discussion, said infrastructure is a key to economic development.

“You have to have the infrastructure in place,” he said. “We’re making large investments in the Southeast.”

Recktenwald also said the county is working on transportation issues that include partnerships with developments for the construction of new roads.

Williams also spoke about ways Southeast Volusia communities can facilitate growth in high-paying jobs for residents. Among the items listed were establishment of industrial and commercial future land use plans, pre-staged infrastructure and a focus on sustainability and resilience.

“This is about the entire community and why we all moved here,” he said. “The high quality of life is fundamental to our future and bringing high-paying jobs to the area.”