The Walton County Small Business Association (WCSBA) represents small business owners to advance positive, inclusive countywide economic growth. Everyone benefits when small and family-owned businesses thrive.
On May 16th, WCSBA hosted a dinner at Red Fish Taco with several guest speakers. Walton County School Superintendent Russell Hughes spoke on the recent ½ Mill Referendum approved by voters on May 7th. The revenue from this referendum will benefit the school district with an additional $9.6 million annually. This money will enhance school safety, academic quality, and technology, make salaries competitive and expand fine arts and athletic programs.
Walton County is the fastest growing county in Florida, and the sixth fastest growing county in the United States. With an expanding population, there are more school children, which requires more teachers, more programs and more materials.
Walton County is an “A+” school district in Florida and ranked in the Top 10 in the State for 50% of all assessment areas. It is ranked #8 out of 67 school districts in the state of Florida. Strong schools attract homebuyers and businesses, and then build the economy and create jobs.
WCSBA is a passionate supporter of the Walton County educational system, a fundamental driver of future growth and successful local small business owners. In 2018, WCSBA partnered with the Walton Education Foundation to purchase a Florida college scholarship in the Take Stock in Children Scholarship and Mentoring Program. This program provides tuition for at-risk students who struggle financially to go to college. Funds donated are matched dollar for dollar by the State of Florida through the STARS program.
WCSBA awarded a second scholarship for the 2019 Take Stock in Children Program. In 2018 and 2019, WCSBA members committed to mentoring the recipients of each scholarship throughout their high school years.
Freeport City Mayor Russ Barley was another guest speaker at the meeting. Mayor Barley spoke of the projected growth of the City of Freeport, tripling the current population in the next few years. To prepare for this growth, Freeport has embarked on water and sewer improvements and infrastructure projects. Phase One wastewater improvements have been funded for design and construction of a 1.5 billion gallons per day waste water treatment facility expansion; which should be under construction within a year and operable within 18 months. Freeport is working with developers on water and sewage along Highway 331.
Billy Williams, local RESTORE Act Coordinator, spoke about the Opportunity Zone in north Walton, designated by Governor Scott before leaving office. People with capital gains can invest in the Opportunity Zone by means of an Opportunity Zone Fund, where investors can defer taxes for up to seven years. This Fund can be used for new construction or rehabilitation projects. This Zone, approximately 20 square miles, runs along the north side of US 90 between State Road 83 and Kings Lake Road in DeFuniak Springs.
WCSBA announced a number of goals for 2019, including expanding their website and social media presence. Both will provide a greater level of assistance and resources for current and future members, which is key to supporting responsible economic growth in Walton County. Buying goods and services from small business owners creates jobs and strengthens the local economy.