White Oak development moves forward with county approval

Published 8:11pm Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A key component

For many in attendance the potential for jobs and an economic boost was hard to ignore.
Polk County Economic and Tourism Development Commission member Dennis Hill came forward during the second public hearing regarding the development agreement.

“We have an opportunity to reverse the circumstances and help bring significant economic growth to the county,” Hill said. “The White Oak Equestrian development means many jobs – maybe as many as 1,000 jobs, increased tax revenue, new business and more business for our existing merchants. It will also bring more interest in visiting our area and taking advantage of our other recreational opportunities, our festivals and our attractions.”

Maryanna Haymon said she moved to the area in 1997. In recent years she and her farm have been named the No. 1 sport horse breeders in the country. She said she and the area are desperate for people to move here and she thinks the project could be the draw needed.

“We are going out of business next year … the reason being that I don’t have access to the qualified assistance and the help that I need,” Haymon said. “I see it expanding the job base in this county, you are going to have people who are support staff who will live here year round – landscapers, gardeners, plumbers, electricians. The key and heart of what Mr. Bellissimo did in Florida was the equestrian center but it starts there.”

Bill Hay is an equine veterinarian in the community. He said he moved here with his family from another small community because he saw the area there deteriorating.

“We have about 18 employees right now and one of our goals looking at this is we’d like to have more employees; I’d like to be a job creator,” Hay said. “This proposal gives us a great advantage to move forward.”

Commissioner Ted Owens said one of the driving forces behind his vote to approve the project was the economic potential.

“We’ve really been working on this a while,” said Owens. “I think the future of this project is going to be a good thing for Polk County. I think a particularly important aspect is the part that was put into the agreement about making an effort to use Polk County contractors.”

Though Bellissimo and Smith have said they cannot provide a hard and fast number for the amount of jobs to be created, they do intend on focusing their efforts on hiring locally.

Bellissimo said they plan to hold a job seminar soon to determine what skills available in the area match their needs, especially in the initial phases of site preparation and construction.

Moving forward

Joann Loheac of Green Creek said she has concerns similar to others, but she felt the county could not let the project slip by them.

“I love this area but what will be here for my daughter,” Loheac asked. “We have an opportunity right now that is only going to present itself once in our lifetime. It might not be perfect, but I think we should try to make it the best for the most citizens and ultimately long range be the best thing for Polk County.”

Bellissimo said he’s pleased citizens and neighbors to the project were willing to work through their concerns and that the commission allowed the project to move forward.

“The spirit of the community came out tonight and I’m glad we were able to address their concerns,” Bellissimo said. “We’re very, very excited about our future in Polk County.”


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