Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace column.
Like an azalea bush, our community is experiencing blooms of hope and promise this spring.
Some of the blooms have been as predictable as mother nature. Others appeared less likely. But each can produce a flower of optimism.
Some are financial in nature, while some are economic and others involve a better quality of life. Hopefully we can turn this into a grand harvest.
— Both the Fernandina Beach and Nassau County governments are in solid financial shape, as is the School Board. These positions of aplenty mean there will be little need for additional taxes, fees or assessments on residents or businesses this year. In particular, property taxes are increasing and depositing more revenues into the government coffers.
— Rising property values are generating the increased tax revenues in a very healthy, beneficial relationship. On Amelia Island and in some parts of Yulee, property values have returned to levels last seen 10 years ago — during the real estate boom. While this trend can vary from one end of the island to the other, or from one street to the next, the overall direction is extremely favorable for property owners.
— Within the city limits of Fernandina Beach, positive efforts are being undertaken by local officials and residents alike. One citizen/business group is aiming to improve the condition of South Eighth Street, while another is focused on bolstering Centre Street.
— The new city manager in Fernandina Beach is getting off to a promising start. He is openly communicating with the public through a newspaper column, and he appears willing to critique operations and staffing within City Hall.
— A review of the city attorney’s office is long overdue. This department has been the central figure in a series of unfavorable legal settlements. As proposed by Commissioner Tim Poynter, the costs and effectiveness of each department should be compared with outsourcing/privatization. This is how corporations function, and each branch of government should be analyzed in a similar way.
— The School Board is proceeding with a new public school across State Highway A1A from the entrance to Florida State College in Yulee. The school will reportedly emphasize science and math and will be paid for by existing funds, without borrowing.
— A new plant is being proposed for the Rayonier Advanced Materials property south of downtown Fernandina Beach. The plant will reportedly produce a relatively clean lignin product while creating new jobs and supplementing our tax base (after some upfront tax breaks apparently). And several serious inquiries have been made at the Crawford Diamond complex near Bryceville. The west side is ideal for new industry, with the widening of State Highway 301 and proximity to two railroads and two interstate highways.
— Like a perennial flower, the resilient restaurant scene in Fernandina Beach continues to flourish. While several restaurants have closed, five new eateries are opening in downtown. As these popular restaurants draw tourists to Centre Street, hopefully this will provide a boost to retail outlets.
— And speaking of tourism, this clean and profitable industry keeps growing here like a wildflower. Effective tourism strategies, a historic downtown and first-class resorts form a triumvirate of prosperity.
Hope indeed springs eternal in Nassau County.