MOORE HAVEN, Fl. (Feb. 20, 3006) -- Governor Jeb Bush this week announced
the re-designation of the south central region, which includes the counties
of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee, the cities of
Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay and the community of Immokalee, as a
Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern.
An area designated a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern
receives priority attention from state agencies to ensure communities
receive the technical assistance and other resources needed to further
economic development initiatives and local projects. The Rural Area of
Critical Economic Concern initiative also allows the Governor, through his
Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI), more flexibility in applying
or waiving criteria requirements, local match or similar provisions
considered by economic development incentives programs. Local governments
and regional organizations work closely with REDI, a multi-agency
initiative, to identify and pursue economic development opportunities. The
Governor's Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development provides
additional assistance to rural communities to solve problems affecting
their fiscal, economic or community viability.
"Everyone in the region is very appreciative of the re-designation as a
Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern," said K.S. "Butch" Jones, Glades
County Commissioner and Chairman of Florida's Heartland REDI, Inc. "The
people of this region have struggled to catch up to the state in economic
development. We are hard working and good people, but our lack of
infrastructure and the pressures on agriculture, along with two devastating
hurricane years have created challenges that could bend even the strongest
economies. We look forward to becoming a region with high-skill, high-wage
jobs and this designation will assist in that process. "
The Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern designation lasts five years.
An evaluation at the end of the five years results in a recommendation by
REDI as to whether the designation should be continued. Three areas have
continued their designation since 1999. In addition to the south central
Florida region, areas in northwest and north central Florida have also
received the designation.