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Madison County Business Journal 2014

Meetings. Frequently Interrupted.

Welcome to Honey Lake Plantation, the South’s premiere meeting retreat. Group attendees arrive daily, but spend very little time in meetings. Hunting bobwhite quail on foot, horseback or bird buggy. Tackling the aggressive, hybrid tiger bass. Challenging the ultimate sporting clays competition. Cooking up a frenzy with culinary team building. The distractions are abundant. Meetings are anything but dull.




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Cindy Vees Executive Director, Madison County Chamber of Commerce


very day the staff of the Greater Madison County Chamber of Commerce Inc. finds it a joy and privilege to interact with our residents and businesses, as well as new and expanding businesses, who find our business environment inviting. We offer hospitality to travelers who enjoy the beauty of our countryside and historic district, students considering our dynamic community college programs and relocating folks who find our Southern charm irresistible. We strive to be a successful extension of the networking and marketing arms of our businesses and advocate in their best interest with every opportunity. In our small rural county chamber world, our main goal is to provide a wealth of services for our members, while keeping our community’s spirit of camaraderie alive and well in growing relationships that stand strong in spite of economic challenges.

In the pages of this special Madison County Business Journal, you will get a peek at our county, nestled conveniently in central North Florida on a 35-mile stretch of Interstate 10 between Tallahassee and I-75, with the Aucilla River on our border to the west and the Suwannee River on the east. It is difficult to speak enough about the charm of this place with our rich history and culture, but our visitors often do. From our Southern barns, hay bales and rolling countryside to our wild flowers that bloom each year, we are a small town that is home to nearly 20,000 folks who enjoy a slower pace of life while the hustle and bustle of a big city is not far away. Enjoy the warmth of Madison County as you read about us. Take the time to visit. We would love to show you our Southern hospitality. You don’t have to live here to love it, but you could.



04 Economic Development 07 Demographics 08 Quality of Life


11 Educated Workforce 14 Health Care 16 Tourism


18 Real Estate


20 Agriculture



LEAD PROJECT ACCOUNT EXECUTIVE Chuck Simpson ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES Rhonda Murray, Darla Harrison, Lori Magee, Tracy Mulligan, Linda Powell, Paula Sconiers, Chris St. John, Drew Gregg Westling MARKETING AND SALES ASSISTANT Derika Crowley

23 Economic Development Benefits

On the Cover: Madison County Courthouse Photo by Scott Holstein 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L





Proactively working to bring in new business By Linda Kleindienst


ob Williamson was looking for a place to retire. Brian Annett wanted his kids to grow up with dirt between their toes. Both men found their way to Madison County in the past decade — and economic development for this rural community quickly followed.

Brian Annett opened a branch office of his bus company in Madison to meet a growing demand in North Florida. 4


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“My parents went on a six-month search and looked at 48 plantations. They bought the property back in 2008. It was just raw land,” remembers Jon Williamson, president of Honey Lake Plantation. Although his parents were looking for their retirement home, it wasn’t long before they realized

their location near Interstate 10 — along with close proximity to Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Orlando — made Honey Lake the perfect spot for weddings, hunts, corporate retreats, family reunions and more. The plantation hosted about 14 major events in its first year of operation — “just

to build a larger presence up here.” The company’s largest market is student travel — and collegiate use is a big part of that. Situated within easy travel distance of Florida State University in Tallahassee, the University of Florida in Gainesville and Valdosta State, the company’s motor coaches can cater to those schools’ traveling sports teams, visiting sports teams and groups wanting to attend games at the universities. “We’re kind of in the middle,” said Annett of his new company location, which is also convenient for organized groups traveling to and from the state Capitol, especially during the annual legislative session.

A Welcoming Environment


Bob Williamson planned to retire at Honey Lake Plantation but then saw the property’s business potential.

to cover overhead” — and did 75 last year. “It’s evolved and continues to evolve,” Williamson said of the operation. “Our business triples about every year, which I think we will sustain for the next three years.” Annett’s family business was centered in Sebring, where his parents began Annett Bus Lines in 1976 with one motor coach that traveled 65,000 miles in its first year. Now one of the largest motor coach companies in the U.S., it is owned by Brian and his brother David. In 2007, Brian Annett and his family moved to Madison, looking to reconnect with the small-town atmosphere he enjoyed as a youth in Sebring. He had attended North Florida Community College to play baseball and met his wife in Madison, so they were no strangers to the area. While his brother continues to man the company’s Sebring office, in February Brian Annett held a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new office in Madison. “The Panhandle has been a growth market for us,” Annett explained. “We continually see more business popping up and thought it would be a good idea to try

Not only have Honey Lake and Annett found their businesses conveniently located, (Annett’s buses are located at the county industrial park adjacent to Interstate 10), they and others have found a great partner in Madison County. “From personal experience … from a permitting standpoint, the county has been great to work with,” said Williamson. “And they helped us develop relationships with key people who helped us with their business.” The biggest economic driver Madison has going for it is its location on a coast-tocoast interstate (the county has four interchanges) and the relative ease with which any Madison business can engage in interstate commerce. “The county’s leadership really wants to grow around the I-10 corridor,” Annett said. Lisa Davies is the sales manager at Florida Woodland Group, the brokerage firm working on behalf of the owner of a 1246-acre parcel situated on the interstate that’s being marketed for its commercial, industrial or residential potential. For Davies, one of the biggest selling points of her listing is Madison County’s economicdevelopment minded local government. “Madison County is very pro-business,” said Davies. “They’re wanting to move this thing down the pipeline.” Dennis G. Lee, the president of Florida Woodland Group, gives the county a resounding recommendation for its support of new businesses coming to town. “Our group has been doing business in

Madison County since the late 1970s — over 30 years. As a result, we have dealt with a variety of public officials — elected, appointed and career service — and have appeared many times in many different settings to seek required approvals, assistance and cooperation from the local government,” Lee says in a recommendation listed on the county’s economic development site. “Madison has proved to be a willing and able partner to sound economic development and community prosperity.” Not only do local officials help with development issues in their own county, they will work with regional councils and other economic groups to facilitate a Madison-based project. “The importance (and rarity) of this personal involvement cannot be overemphasized,” Lee said. Part of the commitment to economic development includes the extension of key infrastructure to the Interstate 10 corridor to accommodate business growth. “Florida Woodlands got water, sewer, electric and gas to its 1,200 acres on the south side of I-10,” said Crawford Powell, the county’s economic development consultant. “The only thing that site does not have is rail, and a lot of logistics folks don’t need rail. It’s a great spot for warehousing distribution or food manufacturing.” The city and county, Powell emphasized, understand the vitality that economic growth brings to a community and have stepped up in a big way to help that growth. “If you get the leadership going in that direction, the energy and resources will follow,” Powell said. “They are trying to proactively develop industry.” The county has spent between $8 million and $10 million to put infrastructure in place where economic development will most likely occur in the near future, at three of the county’s interstate interchanges. To help incentivize Annett’s move into the county’s industrial park on I-10, the county voted to give the company land so all the signage and buses could be seen from the highway. “I think we’re very responsive to a business that is interested in coming into our county,” said Allen Cherry, Madison County coordinator and director of economic development. “The fact that 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L




we’re small means we can make sure there is no hold up on permitting approvals. The permitting is done in the same building that I’m in.”

Losses and Gains


Madison Coordinator Allen Cherry says the county is “very responsive” to any interested business.

to have a project come to Madison. But if it comes to Suwannee or Jefferson, it still benefits us, like the lumber mill in Suwannee that’s only 10-15 minutes from the county line.” Other new businesses have popped up in the small town of Lee, where the town council bought a vacant school building and turned it into an Enterprise Zone and a business incubator. The city provides office space at a reduced rate and support in obtaining loans. The building has 9,298 square feet of office space divided into 19 available offices. Businesses that have sprung to life there include Everything Pecan, which opened May 2013 and is a small bakery that sells all natural baked goods, and a day care center that in the first six months took in 65 children and hired eight employees — then moved into a new location when it was able to buy its own property.

Ready Workforce The county recently held an event for site selectors — those who are hired to help companies find locations where they can relocate or expand — to give them a “soft sell” on the benefits of coming to Madison. “We wanted to introduce ourselves to them and let them know we’re available. We’ve already had some follow up to that,” Cherry said. “I’m selfish. I’d like 6


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“We have the workforce, and we have the community college here. There’s a lot of training that could be available to a company coming in,” said Cherry. “We have a low cost of living and a great quality of life, with some of the prettiest scenery and rolling hills.” Brian Annett said he continually gets compliments from clients about the

demeanor of his employees who work out of the Madison facility. “We have found the work ethic and overall attitude of the folks in North Florida a good match for a service industry such as ours,” he said. Powell said the county has an available pool of engineering talent, and North Florida Community College educates the entry-level managers, while there are trade schools in Perry and Tallahassee that will provide needed labor. “And the cost of living is less, so you can scale down wages, especially if you want to edge into a market,” he explained. “Madison has a little slower pace, a slower lifestyle, where you know your neighbor by name. But it has a committed workforce committed to making your business successful.” Annett sees continued growth in the region and is positive about Madison’s future. “Every county doesn’t have the luxury of an interstate dissecting the entire county. Madison does. More traffic equals more exposure, and exposure equals more opportunity along the I-10 corridor,” he said. “We are excited to have seen this movement first and even more excited to anchor the Madison County Industrial Park as a gatekeeper to the county from the east.”


Madison County, like many of its North Florida neighbors, has experienced the ups and downs of the economy, first losing long-time employers like a meat and a furniture plant and then gaining new ones as times improved. “The meat and furniture plants together had about 1,000 employees. The meat plant was owned by Winn Dixie, then sold to Smithfield, which closed it. It was a sign of the economic times,” said Cherry. “A lot of those (workers) are still around.” Some of those workers are now employed by the new Stahl-Meyer Foods meat processing plant in Madison. Meanwhile, other companies, like Nestlé Waters Florida, have been around awhile. Nestle´, which employs about 200 workers at its Madison plant, recently celebrated a 10-year anniversary. It produces Zephyrhills Natural Spring water, Deer Park Natural Spring Water and Nestlé Pure Life from local spring waters. The Madison bottling facility is Florida’s largest “green building.”


Employment by Industry (2012)

2013 (estimate) — 19,395 % change 2010-2013 — 0.9% Under 18 years old — 21.1.% 18-64 years old —61.6% 65 years and older —17.0%

MADISON FLORIDA Average Annual Employment 4,281 7,109,630

Labor Force


2.2% 4.7%


10.2% 4.3%

As Percent of Population, 2013 (preliminary) — 47.0% Unemployment rate (2013) — 8.9% Average annual wage (2010) — $29,119 Major Private Employers Nestlé Waters North America — bottled water Johnson & Johnson — petroleum Lake Park of Madison Nursing Home Winn-Dixie — grocery Florida Plywood — wood products Corporate Graphics — printed materials

Natural Resources & Mining 5.1%1.2%

Trade, Transportation and Utilities 18.6% 20.9%

Leisure & Hospitality 7.1% 13.6% Other Services 1.9%





No Data

Education Levels (percent of persons age 25+) High school graduate or higher — 77.2% Bachelor’s degree or higher —10.3% Geography



Financial Activities

2.2% 6.7%

Professional & Business Services 2.0% 14.6% Education & Health Services 16.8% 14.9%

Land area — 695.95 square miles Persons per square mile — 27.9 Climate Average temperature January July

High Low 65 42 92 71

Sources: Enterprise Florida; Florida Legislature’s Office of Demographic and Economic Research; U.S. Census Bureau

Small Community Progressive Leadership World Class Companies

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‘OUR ATTRACTION IS ONLY NATURAL’ Motto reflects county’s natural bounty By Linda Kleindienst



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t’s on a path less traveled, a place with wide open spaces, rolling hills, ancient live oak trees, pristine rivers and a strong sense of community. With its rural lifestyle, Madison County is the type of place where you know your neighbor’s name, where when you walk into a restaurant you know most of the customers, where people treat their neighbor’s children like their own. While an area’s quality of life may not always be the high point of a business relocation pitch, what Madison County offers could help tip the scales. Located 46 miles east of Tallahassee, Madison was named in 1827 in honor of James Madison, the nation’s fourth president. At the time, it was the largest county in the yet-to-be formed state of Florida. Its largest town remains Madison, which was named after Madison C. Livingston, who donated the first piece of land to establish the county seat. There are three incorporated towns — Madison (designated one of the Best Little Towns in Florida by Visit Florida), Lee (celebrating its 105th anniversary in 2014) and Greenville (the childhood home of Ray Charles). Smaller unincorporated communities include Cherry Lake, Eridu, Hamburg, Lovett, New Home, Pinetta and Sirmans. The cities and county host a series of events year-round for family fun. And the region’s quality small town environment offers residents and visitors a mix of historical perspective (Madison has more historical markers than any other


Opposite: (Top) The Four Freedoms bike trail leads cyclists to interesting sights. (Bottom) Dancing in the street during a local festival. This page: (clockwise from top left) Colin Kelley memorial; Madison County Clerk of Court Tim Sanders (left) is all ears at Hickory Grove UMC Founder’s Day; Cherry Lake.

Florida county, with some homes close to 200 years old), natural wonders (like the Aucilla River Canoe Trail and Madison Blue Springs State Park) and modern recreation (a nationally renowned 103-mile bicycle loop). Here is a sampling of the county’s most popular annual events: Down Home Days Festival — Held each April, this historic festival features a parade and PCA rodeo competition along with games, contests, plenty of food and activities. This year’s celebration will be held over two days, starting April 18. Fancy Flea Event — Hosted by the Fancy Flea Vintage Home and Garden Market in May, this event is an upscale vintage flea market featuring shabby chic, garden décor, jewelry, antiques, vintage fashions, cottage glam and more. The 2014 event will be held May 3 in downtown Madison. Hickory Grove Founders Day — Held at the Hickory Grove United Methodist Church in Pinetta, this annual October celebration features food and activities from cane grinding to syrup and sausage making. The event will be held on Oct. 18. 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L



Where Do the Ideas Come From?

Madison County Community Bank was formed in 1999 by a local group of men and women. Their purpose was to bring to our community a bank focused on meeting the banking and financial needs of our local citizens and businesses. The MCCB Board, Management and Staff all live and work in Madison County; all of our decisions are made here, and we are Madison County’s only locally owned bank. In today’s environment, we fully understand that your banking choices are virtually unlimited. However, if you prefer a banking relationship which delivers outstanding personal customer service coupled with all of the modern conveniences, then Madison County Community Bank is your clear choice. We consider it an honor and a privilege to be your bank and to demonstrate our motto:

People You Know. A Bank You Can Trust. 850.973.2400 · · 301 E. Base Street, Madison, FL 32340 P.O. Box 834, Madison, FL 32341 10


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Need training? There’s an app for that here By Jason Dehart

CareerSource North Florida is helping to train the local workforce.


ural counties are, more often than not, at a disadvantage when it comes to job training. Madison County is decidedly not deficient in that area — considering two important factors in its favor: CareerSource North Florida and North Florida Community College. In fact, these two resources cover not just Madison, but Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Suwannee and Taylor counties as well. “We are very proud, here at CareerSource North Florida, to be a highly valued member of economic development teams throughout our region. Providing individuals with help to locate the best job for them, and our businesses, with the ‘first-hire, best hire’ is our part of building thriving communities, one family at a time and one business at a time,” said Executive Director Sheryl Rehberg. “It is our pleasure as the ‘go-to source for jobs and

training’ to serve our communities. Our success is built by partnerships and excellent service.” CareerSource North Florida is an important tool in providing testing, training and job-skills evaluation for adults and young jobseekers alike, according to spokeswoman Diane Head. “If an employer has a new piece of machinery they need workers trained how to use, the employer can bring in the vendor and pay them to train their employees, and then we could reimburse them for that training,” Head said. “Also, if they bring on a new employee that has a skill gap we can close that gap by an on-the-job training contract. We have youth programs and youth career consultants, and we manage a summer youth program where kids go into the community at work sites and do actual work. That’s something we do every summer.” 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L




NFCC is an ally in those training efforts and has vocational training in areas such as allied health, pharmacy, nursing and law enforcement. “If a company needs training ramped up, NFCC is ready to step up and do that. I don’t know if there is a limit to what they will consider. We can, without any hesitation, refer our employers to NFCC,” Head said. Located in Madison, North Florida Community College is one of the last remaining state colleges to have “community” in its name. College President John Grosskopf said the college is in the process of having a baccalaureate program approved, at which point it is expected to drop “community” for “state.” But nothing else is going to change, he said. The college remains dedicated to its core mission. “We exist for serving the needs of the people in our (six-county) district,” he said. “The kind of college we have to be is defined by the people we serve. One of the things we don’t want to lose is the understanding of how that relationship works. We are here to serve the community. The mission will continue.” NFCC offers a wide range of technical education courses that include practical nursing, registered nursing, pharmacy technician, early childhood education, child care center management, emergency medical services, paramedic, fire fighter, public safety, corrections and criminal justice. In terms of workforce, its biggest program is “Allied Health.” To improve health care options in the region, Grosskopf said the college has embraced the philosophy of “growing” its own health care workers.

North Florida Community College ranks among the best in the U.S.





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“And so that’s really important to us. We’ve got a lot of extraordinarily bright folks, and the trick is to give them the training to be successful in allied health careers,” he said. Thanks to world-class education, though, nursing students have no problems getting jobs. A new hospital is being built right next to campus, so all kinds of interesting opportunities can be developed there, but if they want to work for bigger institutions there are many opportunities in nearby Tallahassee and Valdosta. Grosskopf is especially proud of the health care program for its graduation rate. Admittedly, in terms of quantitative measures, NFCC can’t compete with other institutions around the state because it’s such a small, rural college (2,100 students overall, 850 FTE students). “But I can tell you that on qualitative measures, we can beat the pants off everybody,” he said. Last year on the licensing board exams, the first-time passing rate for nursing students in the LPN program was 100 percent while the state of Florida average pass rate was 75.3 percent and the national average was 84.6 percent. For the RN program, NFCC’s first-time pass rate on licensing boards was 91.6 percent compared to the state average of 76.7 percent and the national average of 83 percent. “So, we do an extraordinarily good job of preparing – John Grosskopf, our students to be successful. College President And I guess that’s one of the things that folks that want to set up businesses or really build a life in my beautiful part of the state need to know. It’s easy to overlook us because we’re small; however, when you do take a look at us you realize that what we do, we do very well,” he said. The accolades don’t end there. Every three years, Washington Monthly Magazine publishes a ranking of the top community colleges in the nation — and, there are more than 2,500 community colleges to judge and rank. NFCC is ranked second. “It’s a phenomenal accomplishment, but it comes from the dedication of the staff of this college in fulfilling our mission, and the biggest part of our mission is helping the district we serve find success,” said Grosskopf. “And one of the things we believe here is it’s not our job to define success. Individual students, potential employers, they define what that means. Our job is to get students from wherever they are to that point. “We are an open-door institution, which means it doesn’t matter what your skill set is, it doesn’t matter what your background experiences are, it doesn’t matter where you are in your educational path, we take you as we find you and we work very hard to get you to wherever it is you need to be. And so if someone is interested in opening a business or moving, they’ve got a tremendously strong resource to tap into at NFCC.”


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A brand new facility, a new approach to health care By Chay D. Baxley


adison County’s health care industry has gotten a lot of attention lately as efforts surrounding a new facility, a fresh philosophy on patient care and cutting-edge technology have taken root in this rural community. Thus far, the effects have been profound. Once ranked last among Florida’s 67 counties, Madison’s health care scene has reinvented itself in recent years — skyrocketing its overall health care ranking to an impressive 51st place in 2013, with little indication of slowing down. According to locals, a practical combination of due diligence and dedicated professionals are at the heart of this dramatic climb. “The ranking is a result of all of our efforts,” explained David Abercrombie on the county’s continuous upward momentum. As the CEO of Madison County Memorial Hospital, Abercrombie’s role in Madison’s transformation has been monumental. The ranking system that hospital administrators and county officials have utilized to monitor their success is based on a score that considers a variety of local issues (including social and economic factors, physical environment, clinical care,

health behaviors, morbidity and mortality) and is released annually through a collaborative study between the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. To ascend the ranks, Madison residents had to implement a three-step solution.

First, a New Facility As the epicenter for the county’s medical needs, Madison County Memorial Hospital is a Medicare and Medicaid approved Critical Access Hospital offering skilled nursing care and services, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, radiology, dietary services and patient education. But beyond its practical definition, MCMH has a rich and extensive history in the region, spanning all the way back to the 1930s. Though the hospital’s infrastructure had gone through a series of improvements and a major overhaul by the mid ’90s, in 1996 talks of a more modernized facility began to stir amongst board members. But it wasn’t until 2006 that the discussion truly gained momentum. To help finance the project, a voterapproved half-cent sales tax was levied in Madison County in January 2007; the

remainder of the funds came from a USDA loan. Following many years of planning, saving and constructing, the new hospital is scheduled to admit its first patient in July 2014 — a major milestone for Abercrombie and his staff. Boasting approximately 59,000 square feet of useable space, the new facility is licensed for the same number of beds as the hospital’s previous location, but due to logistics the capacity will be much greater. Compared to the semi-private and ward rooms prevalent in institutional and medical settings in the ’50s, when the former MCMH was erected, the new location will offer only private rooms — four of which will be suites suitable to accommodate a patient’s immediate family members and caregivers. “The end result of [having shared rooms] is you really don’t have a 25-bed capacity because of matching patients,” shared Abercrombie, who said matching criteria such as gender, age and contagiousness have proven to be a hindrance for the hospital in the past. According to Abercrombie, the new layout will make an enormous difference in sheer volume as well as patient care. “With the new hospital, even though it will be licensed for the same number of beds, it should increase and will increase our capacity by 25 percent,” he said. “When you’re caring for a patient in a private room, it allows you to deliver your care more holistically. It also gives us the latitude to think of the whole patient — not only the patient in the bed, but the entire family is our responsibility.”

Then, a Fresh Philosophy Modernization of facilities at Madison County Memorial Hospital. 14


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In its most basic form, holistic health care is a compressive medical assessment that focuses on treating the person, not just the disease.

For example, if a patient were under a physician’s care for discomfort associated with migraine headaches, a holistic response would be to not only treat the symptoms of the migraine by prescribing medication but to also address the cause. Lack of sleep, poor diet and unmanaged stress are all likely contributing factors. To find the source of the problem, a holistic medical professional may suggest that the patient revaluate his or her nutritional intake or try to incorporate relaxing breathing exercises into the daily schedule. With an emphasis on personal connection, holistic care isn’t the easiest treatment technique and it sure isn’t the cheapest, but it is the path Madison County health care professionals have successfully embarked upon. “As we were designing this new hospital we began to actually change our focus as well,” stated Abercrombie. “We’re building a hospital system that will deliver care more holistically, taking into account the patient as a whole human being and not just their immediate physical needs.”


Now, Cutting-Edge Technology The new facility will also bring with it an array of technologies that until now were largely unavailable locally to the citizens of Madison. A 16-slice computed tomography (or CT) scanner, state-of-the-art digital equipment, an innovative new stroke program and a modern electronic filing system are all part of the package. But perhaps the most exciting addition to MCMH’s new healing arsenal is the introduction of telemedicine. In partnership with Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, MCMH will be offering the services of specialty physicians through video call technology. According to TMH’s Regional Development, Population Health and Telemedicine Administrator Lauren Faison, incorporating telemedicine is a major step in advancing health care in rural areas. “This gives us a way to hopefully prevent patients having to go without care or having to drive an hour each way to get care that they made need in Tallahassee,” explained Faison. “We can push the care out to them.”

Hospital CEO David Abercrombie, standing in front of new hospital set to open this summer, says changes include a move toward “holistic” care of patients. 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L






adison County abounds in outdoor opportunities, not to mention cultural, historical and nostalgia offerings. Yet this 187-year-old county — one of Florida’s earliest — remains largely off the beaten path. That’s not to say it’s wholly undiscovered, however. The folks at Madison Blue Spring will tell you people come from everywhere to enjoy this first-magnitude spring and its beautiful surroundings. The Montanabased Adventure Cycling Association, with nearly 50,000 members nationwide, is one of several bicycling groups that annually conduct tours through Madison County because of its “scenic and historically significant terrain.” And the guest lists at the Honey Lake Plantation Resort and Spa, Unity House and Grace Manor bed and

Cindy Poire’s Madison Antiques Market & Interiors draws customers from throughout the Southeast.



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breakfast inns, Yogi Bear Jellystone Camp and Resort, and others of the community’s lodging and tourism-oriented facilities, attest to significant numbers of out-ofstate and foreign visitors. Which begs the question, is Madison County solely for outdoor types? The answer, of course, is a resounding no, especially in the City of Madison, the county’s namesake municipality and government seat (population 3,000 — give or take a few — located exactly 55 miles east of Tallahassee). Downtown Madison offers a surprising array of shopping and historical/cultural opportunities. Truly, if you’re an antiques collector, junk/treasure hunter, booklover, history buff, sporting enthusiast or simply someone who enjoys exploring

new environments and sampling local flavors, Madison will not disappoint. Here you’ll find innumerable gift and antiques/ collectibles shops, a couple of museums, a sporting goods store, a live performance theatre, ice cream parlor, old books store and sundry eateries and quaint shops — all within easy walking distance of one another. Sure to capture your interest is the town’s stately courthouse, an early 20th-century architectural gem that this year celebrates its 100th birthday. Across the street, the Four Freedoms Monument celebrates freedom of expression and worship and freedom from want and fear, as defined by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941. The monument honors the memory of Capt. Colin P. Kelly Jr., a native son, B-17 pilot and World War II’s first named hero. Shortly after Pearl Harbor, Kelly attacked a Japanese cruiser, only to have his plane shot down. Colin kept the aircraft aloft long enough for his crew to bail out, losing his life in the process. If architecture is your thing, a walking or driving tour of the town’s historic homes will convince you of Madison’s rich history, evidenced by the many grand old houses with architectural styles dating from the Victorian and antebellum periods. Let’s also not forget that Madison is home to North Florida Community College, recently named one of the best colleges in the country, and sponsor of an Artists’ Series that showcases the performing arts and culturally enriches the community. For health/organic food aficionados, O’Toole’s Herb Farm is just outside town. And for music lovers, a short drive away is Greenville, once home to the late, great rhythm/ blues musician Ray Charles, whose renovated childhood home still stands and where a statute honors his memory.


By Lazaro Aleman

A few highlights in brief: Madison Blue Spring, 10 miles east of Madison on the west bank of the Withlacoochee River, is one of the state’s newest parks. Visitors come to swim in the crystal clear waters, explore the underwater cave system and hike the scenic woodlands. Angela Watson, administrative assistant to Park Manager Craig Liney, says the park had 21,000 visitors in 2013, considered a low-attendance year. At least half the visitors were from out of state or other countries, she says. “Divers come from everywhere; it’s very popular,” Watson says. Cindy Poire is owner/operator of Madison Antiques Market & Interiors, a premier antiques/collectibles shop downtown. A collector more than 30 years, Poire has amassed a large inventory of vintage/period clothing from the 1840s to 1970s, including Edwardian and Victorian pieces. “If it’s old, I collect it,” Poire says. “I’ve been collecting so long, I have things no one else has.” Prices range from


North Florida’s Premier Antique Destination


Our 10,000-square-foot store features a high-end selection of period and vintage furnishings and home accessories created by some of the most skilled and prestigious craftsman in American history.



Divers flock to Madison Blue Spring’s clear waters.




Yogi Bear Jellystone Camp and Resort, alongside I-10, is a family-oriented kidfriendly 125-acre gated campground/ theme park with rental cabins and plenty of tent and RV spaces. The only one of its kind in Florida, it draws visitors from near and far. “We get people from all over,” Manager Ruthie Uriarte says. “This last year, we had a lot of Canadians and people from Switzerland and Australia.” The facility’s offerings include a giant waterslide, swimming pool, miniature golf course, skate park and boating/fishing lake.

$64 for a 1960s’ vintage dress to $5,900 for a late Victorian (1890s) evening gown. Her customers range from young girls to college professors to foreign travelers to museums, theatres and movie studios. She also sells early American signed furniture. The Honey Lake Plantation Resort and Spa, in western Madison County, opened in 2012. Boasting some 48,000 acres of fields and woodlands, 25,000-plus square feet of deluxe meeting space and 50 rooms for accommodations, Honey Lake offers a unique blend of the rustic and elegant.

NCE 2 0 05

AlsoVintage and Period

Clothing & Accessories

for Ladies • Men • Children 197 SW Range Ave., Madison FL 32340

Wed–Sat 10–5 or by appointment {email}


FlapperGirlVintage on Etsy

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History, acreage and friendly local government make Madison an appealing choice for big-time investors


he untouched landscape characterizing Madison County tends to attract buyers with a certain set of exceptionally high standards. In Madison, rolling acreage and an abundance of history are blended with some of the South’s most cherished outdoor recreational activities. For these reasons, and undoubtedly many more, stately plantation dwellers have found a home in this rural community’s niche real estate market. “Madison County is in demand because there’s a very good mix of wetland, farmland and plantation lands on these properties, and it lures a lot of investors to the land,” said Jon Kohler, of Jon Kohler & Associates. “Plus there’s a nice sense of the community in the county.”

Honey Lake Plantation is an example of land opportunities for big investors. 18


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Kohler’s firm specializes in high-end plantation and ranch brokerage. In 2008, Kohler and his staff brokered the purchase of Honey Lake Plantation — now a major leisure and hunting destination. According to him, his international clientele (which in recent years has hailed from places like China and Venezuela) has an indisputable fondness for Madison’s brand hospitality. But with demand far greater than supply, Kohler is often forced to expand his search to Madison’s surrounding areas to ensure his buyer’s needs are being met. “Buyers all over the country and all over the world want properties like this,” Kohler said of Madison’s market. “The issue is finding high quality properties — they very rarely come on the market.” Beyond its picturesque antebellum architecture, Madison’s probusiness local government also makes it a prime location for forward thinking investors. Many large tracks of land, like the 1,246 acres known as Norton Creek on the county’s east side, are ripe for development. Fronting on Interstate 10, 87 acres of Norton Creek are considered highway interchange land. In layman’s terms, that translates into 2.5 miles of frontage on I-10 as well as State Road 53. Flush with 96 acres of ponds, lakes and streams, 406 acres of pine trees and another 254 of hardwood stands, a variety of industries from commercial to residential and even industrial could call this plot of land home. “On top of all the potential future land uses it’s a very pretty piece of


By Chay D. Baxley

property,” emphasized Lisa Davies, sales manager at Florida Woodland Group, the listing agency for Norton Creek. According to Davies, Madison officials are doing all they can to make this property attractive to potential investors, including offering rebates and proactively prepping

it for natural gas, water and sewage. “The incentives are in place for the right person to make this a special piece of commercial development,” explained Davies. “We’ve had quite a few large companies look at it, and we’re actively promoting it.”

Facts & Stats » Madison County singlefamily home sales saw a 9.1 percent increase in 2013 over 2012. » Cash sales increased by 4.2 percent. » The median single-family home price increased by 12.5 percent to $99,000. » Madison had 10 foreclosures on singlefamily homes and one short sale. » The median time a home lingered on the market was 126 days.

The 1,246-acre Norton Creek property off Interstate 10 is ready for industrial, commercial or residential development.

*Data comparing Madison County single-family home sales in 2013 to 2012, courtesy of Florida Realtors.




Marianna 850.482.3045 Tallahassee 850.671.7221

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Farmers and ranchers use Best Management Practices to help save water in the Suwannee River Basin By Jason Dehart


low in nitrogen content, and at their ranch holdings near Greenanching and farming have come a long way since the day ville a riparian buffer zone keeps the cattle out of Hixtown Swamp. Cyrus McCormick first demonstrated his mechanical reaper Their herd of Angus beef cattle is rotationally in 1831. Today’s farmer has to make grazed on grass and not given any grain, antisure his or her operations follow sustainable, biotics or growth hormones — which means environmentally friendly methods that protect they fatten up naturally. If needed, the cattle not only their land, but help save entire waterare fed on perennial peanut; but for the most sheds. Such is the case in Madison County, part, it’s an all-natural, all grass-fed beef that where many farmers and ranchers have taken goes to markets from Florida to Kansas. the initiative to do the right thing for the envi“We’ve won hay competitions for our hay ronment in and around the Suwannee and forages, and that’s when we started raising Santa Fe River Basin. our cattle on 100 percent grass and forages,” For 20 years scientists have noted that said Platt, whose family moved up to Madison nitrate levels have gone up in this watershed. County from Central Florida about 10 years But thanks to the Suwannee River Partnerago. “We have a high-quality forage with no ship and the Florida Farm Bureau, this form This award was nitrates.” of pollution is on the decline, and farmers created in 2001 by throughout the region — including those in the Florida Farm The Big Picture Madison County — are helping to make a Bureau as a way to difference. They’re being recognized for using There is a lot of agribusiness going on publicly recognize “best management practices” on their land, in Madison County, according to Dan farmers and ranchers recognition in the form of the County Alliance Fenneman, the county agricultural extension who have voluntarily for Responsible Environmental Stewardship agent. Fenneman said that the 2010 census implemented (CARES) Award. listed some 150,000 acres of vegetable farmbest-management But it’s not just nitrate loading that worries land, tree farms and cow pastures. He said the practices. The mission people. It’s water usage as well, and the old soil is good, but with changing commodity of the program practices may not be the best management prices the actual acres devoted to row crops is to promote practices anymore. That’s why many farmers vary from year to year. For example, he said environmentally have started using the latest breakthroughs that last year the price of corn was good, so friendly and in best-management practices to protect the more corn was planted. But normally, there are economically basin. Madison County farmers and ranchers usually 9,000–10,000 acres of peanuts, some sustainable farming are key players in conservation and good 5,000–6,000 acres of corn and soybeans and practices in an stewardship efforts. More than 80 Madison perhaps about 2,000 acres of cotton. And attempt to reduce County farmers have received the CARES since Madison County shares a border with the amount of award since 2004, according to The Florida Georgia, he said that some Georgia growers nitrates entering the Farm Bureau. have bought or leased property across the ecosystem. Troy Platt is a Madison County rancher who Florida line to grow carrots. is just one of the many locals who have won Family farms and agriculture-related busithe conservation and stewardship award (his nesses are plentiful here, Fenneman said. in 2009). His philosophy is based on healthy These include not just the Platt family and soils; the healthier the soil, the less it needs additives that might others, but the Maultsby family’s Florida Plywoods Inc., a manuharm the environment. Any fertilizer they might use is organic and factured particleboard plant founded in 1956, and the Greenville 20


2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L

It’s your business.

We’re simply here to help. COMMERCIAL AND PROFESSIONAL LOANS^ Birdsong Peanuts, a world leader in the industry, owns about 10,000 acres in Madison.

Timber Corporation, which was founded in 1954 and managed today by the second and third generation of the Vernal Webb family. “Overall, there’s probably 10 or 15 major farmers, and a lot of them are old farms where it’s a father-and-son operation,” Fenneman said. Other companies calling Madison County home are Greenville Fertilizer & Chemical Co. Inc., Mayo Fertilizer & Farm Supply, Farmers Cooperative Inc., Superior Trees Inc., Serenity Acres Farm & Goat Dairy and Gray Logging. In addition, the Townsend Livestock Market, located right off Interstate 10 in Madison, has a livestock sale every Tuesday afternoon. However, the fine land has attracted the attention of larger outfits over the years, he said. Birdsong Peanuts, a world leader in the peanut industry, buys peanuts from farmers and sells them to customers all over the world. Birdsong has plants in Georgia, Texas and Virginia. Fenneman said Birdsong has about 10,000 acres in Madison County. “They have a buying point where they receive peanuts and grow them as well,” he said.


343 West Base Street l 850.973.4161

to credit approval. *Client purchases checks. Account subject to fees if overdrawn. Transaction limits apply. Ask a banker for details. **Available through Capital City Banc Investments and Capital City Trust Company. Investment products are not FDIC insured, are not bank guaranteed, and may lose value.

^ Subject

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Madison County’s renowned bicycle loop meanders through103 miles of picturesque countryside.


An Equal Opportunity Program. Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities. All voice numbers can be reached by persons using TTY/TDD equipment via Florida Relay Service at 711. | 850.973.WORK (local) | 866.367.4758 (toll free) 22


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CareerSource North Florida serves Hamilton, Jefferson, Lafayette, Madison, Suwannee and Taylor counties.


Madison County’s economic development benefits While the State of Florida provides a long list of economic incentives for businesses to locate here, Madison County also has some local tools it can tap into to help.

Possible Property Tax Abatement

The county commission has the authority to abate property taxes on capital improvements for up to 100 percent for 10 years.

Possible Donation of Land

Available to qualified businesses.

Expedited Permitting

Madison provides a quick, cost-effective, easy permitting process for significant economic development projects. The first step is a site development review and approval, followed by building permit approval. Both can be handled in less than 30 days.

Free Training

This is available to employers through the local CareerSource office.

Low Taxes

CSX has rail service through Madison County. The Jacksonville Port is two hours to the east, but the county also has access to ports located in Pensacola and Panama City in Northwest Florida, Savannah, Ga., and Mobile, Ala. Airports located in Valdosta, Ga., Tallahassee and Jacksonville are 30 minutes, 60 minutes and two hours from Madison.

Florida is consistently ranked as a top probusiness state, in part because of its low corporate income tax rate, it’s lack of a personal income tax and the fact it is only one of 10 right-to-work states. Florida has no corporate income tax on limited partnerships and subchapter S-corporations; a state personal income tax is prohibited by the state constitution; there is no state-level property tax and no property tax on business inventory or goods-in-transit for up to 180 days; no corporate franchise tax on capital stock; and no sales and use tax on goods manufactured or produced in Florida for export outside the state.

Chamber of Commerce Benefits

Businesses that choose to join the Madison Chamber can enjoy free: Facebook setup clinics; referral services; display of business cards/brochures; maps for distribution; use of Small Business Development Center library; Small Business assistance classes and training; customized website listing on madisonfl. org; posting on the Chamber’s events calendar; and announcements in the Chamber’s monthly email. Members are also afforded a 20 percent discount on vendor booths at Chamber-sponsored events.

Location, Location, Location! Madison lies between Tallahassee and Jacksonville on Interstate 10, which dissects the county. Interstate 75 is 30 minutes to the east and Interstate 95 is two hours east.

Quality. Safety. Reliability.

Annett Bus Lines has been known for its Quality, Safety and Reliability for over 38 years. Our record stands the test everyday, traveling in excess of 2.6 million miles annually. New North Florida / South Georgia location to serve you better!

When only the BEST is expected, Annett delivers! • 800.282.3655 2014 M A D I S O N C O U N T Y B U S I N E S S J O U R N A L



2014 Madison County Business Journal  

Madison is a business-friendly county that’s ready to boost economic development.

2014 Madison County Business Journal  

Madison is a business-friendly county that’s ready to boost economic development.