Plum Creek’s plans for economic development in eastern Alachua County are crucial to the county’s prosperity, retired University of Florida economist David Denslow said Friday.
Denslow spoke as part of the Opportunity is Knocking Luncheon Series of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.
The company’s development proposal, which it projects will bring 30,000 jobs over the next 50 years, can replace UF as the county’s economic driver, he said.
“Government is gone as the source of growth,” Denslow said. “UF has capped enrollment at 50,000 because it loses money on every student it enrolls, and state and federal support are flat.”
Plum Creek’s proposal to develop 7,000 acres in an area between Newnans Lake and Hawthorne has the potential to attract major employers, such as the plant that Caterpillar has built in the Athens, Georgia, area, Denslow said. “If Athens can do it, we can do it,” he said.
The development also would produce tens of millions of dollars in property taxes, easing the problem that much of the land in the county, including the UF campus, is tax-exempt, Denslow said.
“If you encourage more growth in eastern Alachua County, you bring down the percentage of land off the tax rolls,” he said.
New UF President Kent Fuchs is in a good position to work with Plum Creek in placing university projects – some done in partnership with private companies –on the Plum Creek land, Denslow said. Fuchs led Cornell University in planning Cornell Tech, a major private-public partnership planned in New York City.
“Working with Plum Creek is the route to go for UF to maintain itself as a jewel,” Denslow said.
He urged people attending the event to voice their support for Plum Creek’s plans to the county commission.
“It takes all of us working together to move ahead,” he said.