Walton County Seeks Economic Development and Diversification in - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Walton County Seeks Economic Development and Diversification in 2013

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While people use the start of the New Year to make resolutions, elected leaders in Walton County are doing the same.

Sitting in his new office this week, Commissioner Bill Imfeld plotted his course for 2013. His first priority is the economy.

"Hand in hand, I think 2013 can be an awesome year for economic development and diversification for Walton County," he said.

With 26 miles of white sandy beaches, the County relies greatly on tourism. It's an economic anchor and, while Imfeld praised the money making industry, he said it's important to diversify.

"We saw significant loss of revenues when we had the BP oil spill and it was all geared towards tourism. We need to be able to have other economic engines in the county," said Imfeld.

Those engines, Imfeld said, should be geared towards greater infrastructure.

"I want to find other ways to provide jobs and industries for Walton County," he said.

He has his sights set on the Mossy Head Industrial Park as a means to entice new industries to northwest Walton County.

Imfeld said they are laying the ground work to bring running water to the rural area.

"That should hopefully springboard that 400 acre property into making itself available for investment and for people to come down and make jobs for our citizens," said Imfeld.

Meanwhile, the County awaits news of Restore Act dollars in the millions as penance for the BP oil spill.

2012 saw progress made in developing shovel ready projects when that money arrives; but, until that day, Imfeld is pushing economic incentives as a catalyst for jobs.

"It would be nice if we had a blank check and could provide employment for everybody, but luring those industries that will come in and the economic incentives that will help get them in there is important," said Imfeld.

In November, Walton County voters approved a referendum for tax incentives for new or expanding businesses. Its moves like these that Imfield said can help push Walton County towards a more diverse economy.