MACCLENNY, Fla. – Baker County is preparing the way for big businesses to plant roots in the county, which some residents say is sorely in need of economic development.
The Chamber of Commerce says the Midpoint Business Park is the answer.
Located north of I-10, just east of State Road 228 south of the Walmart Distribution Center, the business park will take over what is now a wooded area in the county with nearly 7 million square feet of space already approved for businesses to move in.
"There's a need for more jobs because we have a lot of people who are unemployed here,” Baker County resident Rashodd Hadley said.
Shellie Jordan said she and other Baker County residents have been driving out of town for work for decades.
That's something the Chamber of Commerce hopes the new business park will change. With active marketing, the county has received a lot of interest in the industrial park.
"Most of the interest is from companies outside Baker County looking to relocate, expand or start new business,” said Darryl Register, executive director of the Baker County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Commission.
He said he's not surprised because Midpoint is in a prime location halfway between I-95 and I-75 with easy access to the CSX railway and plenty of room to grow.
Dozens of perspective business owners have already been out to survey the area, which is still covered in trees.
Representatives with the Chamber of Commerce said they're confident that once the project gets off the ground, it will be a huge economic boost for Baker County, bringing jobs, development and money.
But to make it work, the county needs to build Midpoint Parkway as an access road to the industrial park.
It would be a major corridor that will allow large trucks to navigate to and from the business park without having to clog the narrow downtown roadways in Macclenny.
The parkway will cost more than $8 million -- $2 million of which is already funded by the Florida Department of Transportation. The county is still waiting for a response from the state about a grant to cover the rest.
The Chamber of Commerce said it's only a matter of time before the industrial park is developed.
While some who live in the county don't support the project -- concerned about losing the area's small-town feel -- others said it's a long time coming.
"I think it'd be the best thing that every happened in this county,” Jordan said. “Good jobs, economic development and moving more people in."
Midpoint is one of two approved industrial sites in Baker County. The others are Enterprise East and Woodstock Industrial Site. For more information on those projects, go to http://choosebakercountyfl.com/properties.
There's no word yet on when the Midpoint development will begin.