INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Indian River County’s five mayors want to have a sit down meeting the county’s five commissioners to discuss the county’s future, how the cities and towns fit into it and how they can work together to spark an economic revival.
The mayors of Vero Beach, Indian River Shores, Orchid, Sebastian and Fellsmere plan to ask the Board of County Commissioners for a meeting sometime this summer – prior to elections – to talk frankly about the state of the county’s economy. “People are going to tell you this is impossible,” Indian River Shores Mayor Bill Kenyon told his fellow mayors at their recent meeting, referring to a joint meeting.
The mayors want to get the county more involved in promoting the area, not just in terms of attracting new businesses to the county, but also new residents.
But that kind of work takes money – money the county has not been allocating to marketing, the mayors said.
Sebastian Mayor Richard Gillmor said there has been a lack of funding at the county level for marketing and promoting the area. Orchid Mayor Richard Dunlop added that there’s been a lack of leadership, as well.
Mayor Kenyon told the group that he worked for years in the economic development field in numerous states and that it’s “magical” when done right.
In Indian River County, it’s not been done right, he said.
The mayors plan to go back to their respective councils to pass resolutions showing solidarity amongst the municipalities and to get their blessing on the suggested 5-on-5 meeting with the commissioners.
Mayor Gillmor said that they need to pressure the county to get more proactive in the region’s promotion, that doing so could help create an atmosphere conducive to businesses moving in.
One thing the group agreed the county did do right was attract the CVS distribution center to the county, on State Road 60, west of Interstate 95.
“CVS is the best thing around,” Mayor Kenyon said.
Fellsmere City Manager Jason Nunemaker, who filled in for Mayor Susan Adams, told the mayors that the county also needs to work on attracting different types of businesses to the area, not just more of the same.
“That’s one of the things that’s killing us,” Nunemaker said of the lack of industrial diversification.
He also said the county’s leaders should get involved to some degree in attracting businesses and helping spark growth. Nunemaker explained that there has been public pushback against other governments for getting involved, saying there is “too much government.”
“I think it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” Nunemaker said of the public sentiment, though the county and local governments should still try to be involved and help where and how they can.
Mayor Gillmor said the mayors should present all these issues to the Board of County Commissioners and impress upon the board how important they are to not just the municipalities, but also the county as a whole.
“And then it’s up to them,” he said.