Future options for the workplace

Citrus County Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith, District 3

“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future”. — George Bernard Shaw

So many people have talked about jobs as we came out of the recession and into a period of growth.

We have had many people suggest that we do all we can to get clean jobs into the county and many have rightfully asked to also have a focus on technology jobs.

First, let me be clear that no one thing we do will create technology jobs here in Citrus County, yet if the pieces are put into place we can create options.  Currently we mainly have jobs in the Medical, Governmental, Power Generation, Tourism, Service sectors and a small amount in the Manufacturing sector.

The technology revolution is reaching into every aspect of our lives and yet our current county model for business is one that is supported by the need to provide for people in the traditional sense and not one to incentivize the tech industry.

We have the want for technology.  We would gladly support the jobs and industry if it came here and yet even with all of that it’s not likely to happen anytime soon.

The reason that we can’t get technology jobs here is simple.  We don’t have the key things they need. We don’t have the workforce or the appreciation for technology.

What I would suggest is that we quietly and patiently create the atmosphere that will draw the attention of the technology industry to at least look at Citrus County and do it at little to no cost.

As many of you know I’m absolutely a fan of technology and the ever-changing world.  I also hope to have a hand locally with development of policy to get us ready for it and have been a staunch supporter of the integration of the 5-G cellular system, that will eventually come to Citrus County.

But how do we get the attention of the technology industry?  What steps could a small county like Citrus County do? As always, I have some thoughts on the subject.

As you may or may not be aware, we have a drone park in our county parks and recreation system which is the first in the entire state.  After getting elected, I took excess campaign funds and supported the efforts of students to start a drone club in the Lecanto High School.

These are steps that have been taken to encourage technology usage in one of the growth industries which is drones.  The need for pilots, technical support and manufacturing of drones is going to grow.

At the same time, I’ve requested that staff as part of the Land Development Code changes, consider the aspects of putting in new policy that will support self-driving cars and drones in our community.  Taking into account how the cars will drop off, park on their own and come to pick you up, how we handle parking requirements and other things that will show the world we are supporting the technology revolution.

One of the areas the County administration and I have talked about is getting rid of permit boxes in the future by converting to virtual permit boxes to allow a virtual process for required documents which with the integration of the 5-G cellular system it can happen.

So how does all this help create the groundwork that gets the technology industry to look at us?

As I said earlier, we have a drone park which already made the local and drone industry news.  It’s gotten some good attention and people within that sport and industry now know we have taken the first steps in accepting modernization.  We even have started to look at it as an additional draw for tourists to come to Citrus County and should be advocated as part of our sports tourism.

Yet some people will say why should we be the first, or well those things won’t be here for years. The truth is that the self-driving cars are already in our community and when we do set the policy it will take a while before our policies are accepted by business.

So, with a year to create the changes in the Land Development Code, and three to five years for us to see its results, that would line us up with the time that we truly see real use of those kinds of technologies being used in the US.

Lastly, I suggest that with Lecanto High School already having 3D printing, robotics and a drone club as well as the IB (International Baccalaureate) program, that it would be a great location for a proper Technology Academy which could include a flight school for drones through our Crystal River Airport.  Of course, they would have to expand their curriculum and that would be the school’s choice to do it.

But an academy that could start to produce the workforce of tomorrow, would additionally create an incentive for the technology industry to start looking at Citrus County.  As our health academy helps drive the workforce for the medical industry, the same could eventually happen for a Technology Academy.

When you include the fact we have a true love of the environment which is in line with the thinking of millennials and those in technology, you would see the improvements in our quality of living happening.  This could all come together as a possibility for an environment that offers all if not most of the things they want.

All this would be laying the groundwork for what could draw the future technology industry here, and even though there are no guarantees, it would take a good amount of time for all this to come about.  If we hope that the building of the Suncoast, which a multi-year project will help create jobs, we should also be considering every single policy that we can to grow other options for a diverse industry base.

Just imagine that someday in the future, the apps we use or the devices that get created could come from some young man or woman in this community or the drones that deliver your medicine to your door could be flown by those trained right here, all because we choose now to lead the way.

These policies will end up coming sometime in the future, so we may as well take the lead and get ahead of it, in such a way that it benefits our community, our economy and our children’s future.
As always this is just a conversation, but since the Land Development Code is being opened and some pieces have already been put into place, I figured now’s a good time to as any to have the community start talking today about our tomorrow.

Jimmie T. Smith,
Citrus County Commissioner, District 3




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