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Carrabelle, Eastpoint receive planning grants

David Adlerstein
The Apalachicola Times

Carrabelle and Eastpoint are among eight small and rural communities that will share in $280,000 through the Competitive Florida Partnership grant program administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Competitive Florida program establishes a partnership between the community and DEO to create a strategic vision to advance their economic development needs, while ensuring that the community retains the characteristics that make them unique.

“During this unprecedented time, small and rural communities need opportunities to grow and strengthen their local economies,” said Governor Ron DeSantis. “I am proud that we are able to offer these eight communities the opportunity to create strategic goals for economic growth and diversity, which is needed as our state faces the economic impacts of COVID-19.”

Each of the eight communities will receive $35,000 to fund the development of a strategic plan for economic growth and diversity, community design and disaster preparedness. The partnership between DEO and the local communities offers long-term technical assistance as DEO connects them to various state and federal resources to support the expansion of their economy.

The money for Carrabelle will go directly to the city, while the funds for Eastpoint will be administered through the Eastpoint Civic Association.

Caroline Smith, an economic development planner for the Apalachee Regional Planning Council, said that because Eastpoint is unincorporated, it was not eligible to apply for the grant on its own, so the ARPC applied on the community’s behalf. County Commissioner Ricky Jones, who sits on the ARPC, helped shepherd the arrangement.

Apalacheee Regional Planning Council logo

Created Sept. 25, 2019, the civic association is led by Lynn Martina as president, Jimmy Sapp as vice president, Joyce Estes as secretary and Donnie Gay as treasurer.

Described as a “community-led group of citizens,” the association’s mission is “to improve the rural community for the betterment of its citizens, improving quality of life and encouraging sustainable economic development.”

The Competitive Florida Partnership grant will be used to fund community outreach, workshops and other platforms for community engagement, an asset-mapping exercise, and creation of an Economic Development Strategy for each community.

“It’s a year-long project that usually kicks off in fall with completion in spring (typically in May),” said Smith. “With the COVID-19 situation, we’ll have to be more creative this year about how we conduct the community outreach and engagement pieces.

“I’m thrilled that Eastpoint and Carrabelle have been awarded these grants—both communities worked very hard to submit strong applications,” she said.