OKEECHOBEE – The Okeechobee County Economic Development Corporation (OCEDC) has been busy over the past three months, according to the quarterly report given at the July 22 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commissioners.
Bert Culbreth said a top objective of the OCEDC is to acquire the state property that formerly was the site of the “boys’ school.” The property, on U.S. 441, was originally the site of the Okeechobee County campus of the Florida School for Boys.
The facility was privatized in 1982 by the non-profit Eckard Foundation and renamed the Eckard Youth Development Center. In 2009 the for-profit G4S Youth Services took control of the property.
In 2017 G4S Youth Services was renamed TrueCore Behavioral after being bought by BHSB Holdings Inc.
TrueCore lost the state contract in December 2020. The Department of Juvenile Justice has closed the facility.
“This is a huge opportunity for this county to get this property back in our hands, to do something great for it,” said Culbreth.
In the past quarter, the OCEDC:
• Collaborated with the county on the entryway enhancement project;
• Consulted with regional partners (Enterprise Florida, US Economic Development Administration, and Impact Development Group) to seek out infrastructure development grant opportunities;
• Developed a business relationship with Space Florida for industrial development;
• Supported local business expansions: NexAir, Lake and Trail USA, Okeechobee Painting Center;
• Use the BRE Program Implementation Plan to survey business educational opportunities;
• Advocated for the county’s Industrial Park Strategic Plan;
• Sponsored the “Employability Skills” Summer camp, with 27 graduates were certified for Workforce Development;
• Facilitated six new prospective businesses including two manufacturing, distribution, industrial manufacturing and two aviation;
• Hosted two prospective business site visits for manufacturing and medical logistics businesses;
• Completed a community metric database which will be launching soon;
• Established Okeechobee Utility Authority as new appointed member ;
• The EDC Business Manager completed community leadership certification through Florida Institute for Political Leadership;
• Represented Okeechobee County with a CareerSource Heartland Economic Development Board Seat – 1 year term; and
• Expanded Okeechobee County’s exposure by joining IRSC’s Workforce Development Campaign along with CBS 12 News.