Editorial: Lake City Reporter

Growth easy to see around Lake City Area

November 16, 1998

Lake City residents hold a wide variety of opinions, but on some questions there is a near-unanimous answer: What's the Number One problem facing the county? Growth. What's going to change the area the most in the future? Growth. No matter what the issue, sooner or later the emphasis turns to how to deal with, handle or best manage growth.

However, the word "growth" is used so often today, especially in Florida, that it doesn't mean much anymore. There are a thousand different ways to analyze and add up what growth means to any given city, county or state. Which one works the best?

You could look at the population, which rose by more than 3,000 residents from 1995 to '96 alone. Or the number of households, which increased 15.5 percent from 1990-96. Employment is up; the amount of vehicle registrations has skyrocketed. All signs point to a smaller, rural area that is quickly growing toward its four surrounding bigger cities—Gainesville to the south, Jacksonville to the east, Tallahassee to the west and Valdosta, Ga., to the north.

The 2000 Census, which is being conducted in Columbia County through the end of the year, will undoubtedly confirm all this. Census takers are going door to door, block by block, asking just a few simple questions. The bureau is still seeking help to accomplish this; call 1-888-325-7733 if you would like to work in this important national and local—event.

But we don't have to wait until then to see our county grow before our eyes. The past year has seen several multimillion-dollar building projects in both the private and public sectors:

  • The county school system is nearing completion of multiple improvements to local elementary schools. Estimated cost: More than $4 million.
  • The Florida Department of Transportation is building a new headquarters on South Marion "Street. Estimated cost: $4.9 million.
  • Meade Ministries has built a mammoth worship center near Columbia City. Estimated cost:several million dollars
  • The FDOT is expanding and renovating U.S. 90, Lake City's main thoroughfare. Estimated cost: $7 million.
  • The new Westside Elementary School should go out to bid in February. Estimated cost: $8-9 million.
  • County commissioners broke ground Thursday on a courthouse expansion and renovation project. Estimated cost: $19 million.
  • School board members broke ground Wednesday on the new Fort White High School. Estimated cost: $21 million
  • Lake City Medical Center is building a new hospital near Interstate 75 in what is widely considered to be the single-biggest building project in county history. Estimated cost: More than $30 million.

This short list alone is worth in excess of $100 million in construction projects. While many of the contractors are from out of town, the work for local subcontractors is almost endless. Jobs on all ends of the income scale are being created as companies show confidence in the area's economic potential and the government puts more taxpayer money where it's needed.

There are other reasons to be optimistic. Voters elected fresh voices to the county commission school board, city council and state Legislature. Other progressive thinkers who weren't elected and many others working behind the scenes, have promised to keep helping their hometown—by birth or choice—grow in a positive direction.

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