Palm Coast Looks to Refine Economic Development Opportunities

Every community wants to enhance economic development and job growth, but there is no magic bullet or one-size-fits-all approach. For Palm Coast, the path to sustainable development begins with finding the right opportunities and working with public and private partners to achieve economic development goals.

Craig McKinney

Craig McKinney, the city’s economic development manager, recently spoke with EVOLVE News about the challenges and opportunities in building a foundation for future growth and prosperity.

“Sites and buildings and workforce are the two main challenges for most economic developers in strategically located markets,” he said. “Access to energy and other utilities could be more of an issue on investment projects requiring a certain amount of resources.”

McKinney said those challenges are in large part the result of an unprecedented period of investment and success, and the best opportunities for economic growth vary by region.

“For Palm Coast, our best opportunities include healthcare R&D and medical device manufacturing, information technology, aerospace and defense, advanced manufacturing and corporate headquarters,” he said. “However, one of Palm Coast’s best opportunities is how we will move forward recruiting the industries and companies we want here in the city.”

To take advantage of those opportunities, McKinney said the city is about a third of the way to completing a target Industries Feasibility and Analysis Study that will provide a regional analysis of the mix of industries mentioned above and work as a guide for Palm Coast.

“It is data-driven and also includes significant input from meetings with area stakeholders, including existing businesses, regional schools, government and others,” he said. “It will be a terrific insight into where we currently are and where we best see opportunities to continue moving forward.”

The focus on public/private partnerships in the city’s approach is a key part of the economic development effort.

“Partnerships are critical to be successful in economic development,” McKinney said. “A vital part of economic development success is that the public sector, whether at the city, county opr state level, engages with existing investors in the private sector.”

One of the most misunderstood areas of economic development is the incentive packages that governments offer prospective businesses looking to expand or relocate. According to McKinney, while they play an important role in attracting new business development, they shouldn’t be the focal point of development discussions.

“From a company’s perspective, incentives should never be the first consideration when searching for a location. It should be one of the final aspects,” he said. “A company’s top priority should be strategic location, good access to an ample and educated workforce, utility rates and placemaking.”

For local governments, incentives are a piece of a broader set of issues.

“Economic incentives should be considered in the project’s context,” McKinney said. “Does this company/industry align with the community’s vision and fit I with the area’s industry ecosystem? What is the company’s capital investment? How many jobs will be created and what will be the projected average wage for employees?”

Overall, McKinney said the vision for economic development includes creating strong and sustained collaborations with partners, “to continue charting a path toward bringing good jobs and wages to Palm Coast by providing the sites and workforce that are paramount to companies’ decision-making processes in today’s environment.”