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Fernandina Beach, Nassau County: Counting Blessings

There is something good and virtuous about counting your blessings — especially when starting a new year. We still live in an enchanted place. Just ask the visitors who travel to Amelia Island from around the world. The beaches are still breathtaking, the historic district of Fernandina Beach still emanates a distinct charm, and the island lifestyle is still laid-back and idyllic. Norman Rockwell could portray us in a painting.

Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics of local interest.

___STEVE’S MARKETPLACE___

Centre St., Fernandina Beach (Amelia Island)

There is something good and virtuous about counting your blessings — especially when starting a new year. Maybe it’s the newness of another year sprinkled with a tried-and-true tradition. It might be more timely now than in previous years, considering the turbulence in the economy and in the financial markets and in the world.

Locally, we are certainly a microcosm of what’s going on around us. But with a touch of exclusivity and exemption from all of the frightening real-world concerns.

Here are some things that come to mind for which we can be thankful.

— The city (Fernandina Beach) and Nassau County, Florida governments, as well as the Nassau County, Florida school district, are operating fairly efficiently, and on a solid financial footing. We are not facing a financial crisis like many areas. There are ample operating revenues as well as reserves. Nonetheless, the other taxing entities should follow the lead of county officials — and reduce property taxes while maintaining services.

— Two major employers here have addressed their financial troubles and now have brighter outlooks, while proceeding through bankruptcy.

— The Nassau County clerk’s office is operating efficiently under the guidance of John Crawford. This has not always been the protocol. Under previous administrations, the office has been run with a nonchalance and looseness that led to various — and at times costly — forms of misconduct.

— Local seniors can celebrate a new Council on Aging center. Through the coordinated efforts of both city and county officials, a new center will be built on the corner of 14th Street and Atlantic Avenue. It will have the resources to provide an extensive array of services for our seniors.

— The historic downtown district in Fernandina Beach has endured few store closings, despite the devastating economic downturn. If local businesses can withstand the hurricane force of this economic slump, they can probably withstand most anything.

— Local banks and churches continue to flourish. The old saying is that you can tell how much wealth is present in an area — by counting the banks and churches. There are many of both here. And despite a wicked real-estate decline, most area banks seem to be operating sufficiently. Some are even expanding.

— New industry has been attracted to the Yulee International Tradeplex, and smaller businesses continue to crop up like azalea blooms in the spring. The local Chamber of Commerce continually boasts the addition of new members. And the local branch of Florida State College provides an invaluable educational resource.

— The local real-estate market seems to be bottoming. Closings are becoming more regular (many are tied to refinancing activities, however), and real estate professionals are reportedly busier with showings than during a difficult climate of the past year.

Steve Nicklas

– We still live in an enchanted place. Just ask the visitors who travel to Amelia Island from around the world. The beaches are still breathtaking, the historic district of Fernandina Beach still emanates a distinct charm, and the island lifestyle is still laid-back and idyllic. Norman Rockwell could portray us in a painting.

So there is much to be grateful for, despite the uncertainties swirling around us. We could count our blessings — but they are truly countless.

(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or via eMail at [email protected])