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Robust private sector is critical to shaping Tallahassee’s future

Author: Rob Clarke, via The Tallahassee Democrat

What an honor and how fortunate, during this year of bicentennial commemoration, to be serving as chair of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce.

Tallahassee’s 200th birthday should cause us all to remember what makes our community so beloved. The list of strengths is wide and deep. Here are just a few:

  • Unparalleled institutions of higher education
  • Local entrepreneurs who have invested in industry and technology
  • Canopy roads and miles of paths and trails
  • “Small town” feel

Our achievements are great, and we love our community dearly. And (not “but”) there is still an opportunity to do better. We yearn for a safer community, with a growing and talented workforce, and an economy that provides opportunities for all our citizens.

Yet, there are challenges. While Tallahassee is the capital city of the third largest state, our local economy has lagged behind similar communities. We have also struggled with chronically high crime and economic inequities.

Jeff Whalen, Director of MagCorp talks to Philips representatives during a meeting in Tallahassee, Fla. Photo: Mike Schwartz/Copeland Productions

So, how can the chamber and others lead this community to an even higher level of excellence and achievement?

I believe it starts with a more assertive, visionary private sector.

Research couldn’t be clearer: The best way to improve a community’s quality of life is private sector economic growth. One study in particular by the Urban Land Institute looked at communities already evaluated and ranked for quality of life. The study evaluated whether those same communities were growing, declining, or remaining stagnant based on business growth. The results were clear. The more private sector growth, the better the quality of life in that community.

Another study from Stanford University economist John Taylor found “economic growth in a community is the most powerful instrument for reducing poverty and improving quality of life.”

Unfortunately, Tallahassee has been far too reliant on its important status as a capital city and college town and has not fully embraced the vital nature of private sector growth.

This year, the chamber, with help of community stakeholders and the chamber’s newly formed foundation, will be focusing on developing a community vision for private sector growth. This work will focus on measurable goals and identify the priorities that will most improve our quality of life. Our vision of Tallahassee’s future must combine private sector growth with our amazing existing strengths.

The good news is, we are well on the way.

Some of Tallahassee’s best-kept secrets are incredible, vibrant businesses that are making a huge impact on our community and beyond.

Companies like Ruvos, which has grown to more than 115 employees and provided vital healthcare data services and analysis across the globe during the pandemic.

Companies like MagCorp, a public-private partnership with FSU, which is working with global giants, such as Philips, to commercialize the technology of the MagLab to solve the world’s most pressing concerns, including energy dependence and cancer treatment.

And companies like VR Systems, which provides innovative election training and technology solutions to local governments and others.

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