An ‘investment in our future:’ City, chamber of commerce plan for economic development partnership

Matt Algarin

The city of Destin and the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce are partnering up to spur economic development in Destin.

“Economic development has to be localized for Destin and a plan created for Destin,” Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Shane Moody told The Log. “We want Okaloosa County to stay on the map as well, but when small high-tech businesses are looking for a place to locate, we want them to think about Destin.”

The chamber-formed working group would be comprised of representatives from the chamber, the city of Destin, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County and business partners throughout the community.

Moody told The Log that job-creating partnerships between cities and chambers is nothing new, but is indicative of a trend that is taking shape all over the country in communities like Charleston, S.C., Savannah, Ga., and Hilton Head, S.C.

According to an article from, the city of Huntsville, Ala., has had success with the city/chamber arrangement that calls for the city to allocate about $250,000 a year to the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce and, in turn, the city and chamber work together on economic development projects.

Kelly Cooper Schrimsher, communications director for the city of Huntsville was quoted in the article as saying “it’s been a win-win for us. And I think it’s beneficial to all parties involved.”

Creating an economic development plan is something Mayor Sam Seevers says is crucial to the long-term vitality of the city. After the BP oil spill in 2010, Seevers told The Log that the city quickly learned that it needed to diversify its economy beyond tourism.

“That was basically the turning point,” she said, noting that the city went on to hold an economic symposium where they were able to gain valuable feedback.

As the city looks for ways to boost development, Seevers suggested starting at City Hall. She says there are incentives that could be created and ways to ease the permitting processes that would “entice” businesses and their families to come to Destin.

“This is a great way to keep everyone on the same sheet of music, which is important,” Seever said.

Once formed, the group would work in unison with the chamber to embrace the “Six Pillars of Florida’s Economic Future,” a program that Moody has been working on for about four years now.

The plan focuses on creating a strategic plan for Florida’s future by focusing on those pillars — talent supply and education; innovation and economic development; infrastructure and growth leadership; business climate and competitiveness; civic and governance systems; and quality of life.

“We’re forming this group because something needs to happen and there needs to be a plan in place,” Moody told The Log. Ideally, the group would include members from community partners such as Gulf Power, area hospitals, CPAs, and law firms, he added.

If all goes according to plan, the working group could find itself meeting as early as January or February. The city would still have to adopt the proposed plan as part of its comprehensive planning process.

While there are still some aspects to work out, Moody says the ball is rolling in the right direction.

“Creating an economic development plan, and group, is not an overnight success, and I’m sure there are going to be some bumps in the road,” he said. “It’s an investment in the community and our future.”