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News Story
Updated: 10/09/2013 08:00:02AM

Chamber seeks city’s help in promotion effort

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PHOTO BY BRIAN ACKLEY

The former Citgo gas station on North Charleston has been torn down to make way for an expansion and gas pump relocation for the current Circle K story, just one more recent improvement in the city's business landscape.

By BRIAN ACKLEY

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With the full opening of Mosaic’s Streamsong resort just a few months away, the Fort Meade Chamber of Commerce is asking the city to help start promoting businesses and events here.

Included in the effort would be a billboard on U.S. Highway 17 that travelers would see when they leave the city heading north, which will be part of a “Fort Meade First” initiative that will encourage shoppers and visitors to spend their dollars here.

City leaders were expected to hear a presentation about the plan from chamber President Bob Sweeney and coordinator Priscilla Perry at last night’s regularly scheduled commission meeting.

“Considering the renewed interest in economic development and the commitment by the city and other ancillary companies and utilities, the Chamber would like to launch this program which has been in process for a year,” Sweeney noted in a letter to commissioners.

The chamber is seeking about $2,000 to pay for the cost of the billboard for two years, as well as “Fort Meade First” decals that member businesses would display at their work or office.

One possible source of funds could be the pending sale of the city’s gas system to Florida Public Utilities, which should be completed in a couple of months.

In addition to the $820,000 price tag for the purchase, FPU has also pledged $20,000 a year for the next five years that would be earmarked for economic development.

“It should be clear that the purpose of this campaign is to build Fort Meade economic pride while developing economic resources.”

He said the billboard, which would be located on the backside of a billboard on U.S. 17 which currently is purchased and shared by Sweeney’s R & S Pawn and Cigar, MC’s Gunsmithing and Oakview Lakes.

“This side is by no means ‘beachfront’ property, but it has unique value,” Sweeney noted. “It speaks to our community and other communities as they travel north to patronize out-of-town merchants every day.”

The decal idea would dovetail with the billboard, he indicated.

“We feel this would build the momentum toward pride-based economic growth in Fort Meade,” Sweeney added.

In addition to the opening of Streamsong sometime in early 2014, there are other initiatives that the city will likely benefit from in coming months and years.

Circle K will be relocating its gas pumps and expanding its presence at its current site on North Charleston. Just last week, the old Citgo gas station was torn down as part of that project.

In addition, while there have been no official announcements as of yet, city officials continue to be confident that both Publix and Subway are expected to announce plans to have Fort Meade stores. They are also privately confident that U.S. EcoGen, a $250 million bio-mass fuel plant will still be built here, even though the project hasn’t even broken ground yet. When first announced, it was expected to be up and running by 2014, but city officials say behind the scenes that the project is still moving forward, and just taking longer than first anticipated because of the complexity of the deal.

Sweeney said the billboard will promote both shopping and playing in Fort Meade, promoting such events as the upcoming Battle of Bowlegs Creek Festival, Flywheelers, the Christmas parade and more.

There would be no sponsors on the sign, Sweeney noted.

“The billboard and its message are for the city and for surrounding areas. We do not intend for this to be a ‘NASCAR’ billboard on which outside companies are displayed. There would be no individual sponsors or advertisers,” Sweeney noted. “This is a community campaign, as it should be.”

He said he is hopeful of having the billboard and campaign up and running by November.


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