What’s next?


Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 28, 2012 at 1:31 p.m.

It’s a tad early yet, but happy new year, Gainesville.

You’re not going to believe what happens next.

You’ve got to be optimistic about our prospects in 2013.

Optimistic that Gainesville’s innovation economy is ready to click into high gear.

Optimistic that those stupid, pointless city-county turf wars are over — or at least in a state of truce.

Optimistic that, the misbegotten road tax having crashed and burned, community leaders may finally be ready to coalesce around a more wholistic vision for our transportation future.

Optimistic that, after decades of frustration, we may be on the verge of establishing a much-needed one-stop homeless service center.

No question this will be a year of change.

There will be a new UF President.

Will he, or she, keep the Innovation Hub on track, or come in with a whole new set of priorities?

Gainesville’s economic destiny might depend on the answer to that question.

We’ve got a new county commission majority that will soon hire a new county manager.

To the extent that what we have to “sell” to prospective employers is quality of life, the county’s commitment to sustainability, conservation and smart growth needs to be strong.

We might even have a new mayor, depending on how city politics breaks in the next several weeks.

However that turns out, we could surely use a little less siege mentality and a lot more collegiality down at City Hall.

All of which is not to suggest that 2013 is going to be a cake walk.

There are certainly going to be a lot of challenges.

Chief among them will be managing GRU’s transition to biomass without breaking the backs of ratepayers or ruining the local business climate.

And some of those challenges may well be beyond the community’s control.

If the boys in D.C. do, indeed, plunge over the fiscal cliff, for instance, the fall could be devastating to UF’s R&D and health care enterprises ... two of Gainesville’s economic mainstays.

Ditto if anybody buys into Gov. Rick Scott’s hair-brained scheme to turn the University of Florida and its sister institutions into glorified vocational schools.

Or if the Legislature continues its slash-and-burn approach to funding education.

This is still a “company town” at heart.

And whether we like it or not, company headquarters is based in Tallahassee.

All of that said, I like the way Gainesville is shaping up headed into 2013.

It looks like they’re finally going to build something substantial on that urban pasture at the corner of University Avenue and 13th Street.

And even looking at it now, you can begin to imagine what a special place Depot Park will be when the work is done, the Cade Museum starts to rise and the Power District fills up with start-ups.

And Mindtree surely won’t be the last out-of-town prospect to come knocking once the word gets out that Innovation Gainesville is well and truly open for business.

Because IG offers something they all want: A community of ideas where creative people want to be; to live, work, collaborate and play.

Is this going to be a great year or what?

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