LOGIC focuses on out-of-town employees

Community leaders strategize about how to recruit workforce to live in Putnam County

Promoting Putnam County is a must, but how to go about doing it is the dilemma. 

Those were the sentiments expressed Monday morning during the LOGIC meeting, which brought together municipal, county, school, health and other officials from different areas of the county. 

Continuing its aspiration to create and enact a marketing plan to attract visitors and potential residents to the county, LOGIC communication sub-group members focused on ways to keep existing and potential residents in the county. 

Communication sub-group member and Property Appraiser Tim Parker said bringing jobs to the county is a goal but not the biggest goal. The largest obstacle is getting people who work in the county to also live in the county, he said. 

“If you bring in jobs, what’s the guarantee that those people will want to stay in Putnam County?” Parker asked. 

Parker said he spoke with several of the county’s largest employers and discovered about 520 people who work in the county commute from other counties. 

He didn’t get the out-of-county numbers from Georgia-Pacific, he said, but with GP and other Putnam businesses, there are probably 1,000 people living in other counties who work in Putnam. 

County Commission Vice Chairman Walton Pellicer said Putnam companies years ago had policies in place that said employees must live in the county.

That same standard should be revisited to help keep money coming going back into the county, he said. 

“What can we do to make these people live here and eat out of the trough that they are fed out of?” he asked.

Numerous LOGIC members Monday said the county has lots of infrastructure and natural resources to offer residents and visitors, but a boost in the county’s image wouldn’t hurt, either. 

Parker invited Paul Mack, the store manager of Ace Hardware in East Palatka, to the meeting, and he said another area local officials should look into strengthening is recreational activities for local residents and visitors, especially children. 

“I’m very interested in progression and moving things forward,” Mack said. “We have a great resource in Putnam County. Everybody in here loves the river, I think. But we don’t know what’s here to attract people – to bring them in. 

“We need more stuff for them to do. We have hunting and fishing, and that’s good. But we don’t have a lot of outdoor recreation. And we don’t have a lot of indoor recreation.”

Other LOGIC members said attracting people to the county for jobs and to live is one thing, but keeping them here is an entirely different beast. 

Some members cited lack of housing in desirable areas, while others echoed Mack’s statements about the lack of recreational activities. 

And when attracting people to the county, LOGIC members asked, should they aim their marketing to working-class people with families or retirees who are looking for smaller dwellings. 

Any marketing choices made, School Superintendent Phyllis Criswell said, should lead to the county retaining employees and building upon its education base, which would, in turn, help draw in even more residents and visitors. 

“I want to bring as many educated people to Putnam County as we can,” she said. “Certainly, if we get them here, we want to keep them here. 

“We’ve got to add to our educated base. We probably need to survey (Putnam workers who don’t live in the county) to ask them why they don’t live here.”