Celebrating five years — and our expansion to Madison and Taylor counties

With this issue, 850 is delighted to be celebrating its fifth anniversary. We launched this magazine in October 2008, about a month before the national economy tanked, forcing our region into a recession made worse by the oil spill of 2010. It was a challenge to keep going, but we stayed the course, weathered the economic storm and have been repeatedly honored with awards declaring us the best written, best overall and best trade/special interest publication in the state.

Why? The answer is simple. The standards of our editor, Linda Kleindienst, and our entire team, are extremely high. Our editorial, design, production, sales and marketing forces strive to bring you an informative magazine with a graphic impact six times a year.

As we celebrate this anniversary we have made the decision to expand. Until now we have focused exclusively on the 16 counties that comprise Northwest Florida. In coming issues, however, we will be adding Madison and Taylor counties to our coverage area, allowing us to blanket the entire region covered by the 850 area code.

Our job has been and is to highlight trends and news of note across our region. But we also zero in on what’s happening in specific areas within the region — the Capital, Forgotten Coast, Bay, Emerald Coast and I-10 corridors. Each of these sectors has attained many economic successes, but regretfully their stories are often not well known outside that community. That’s where 850 has stepped in — to educate the different corridors about each other. Toward that end, we periodically do an in-depth economic analysis of a particular county. So far we have delivered packages on Leon, Walton, Okaloosa and Jackson counties. And we have now begun our research on Madison County for the April/May 2014 edition.

This most recent endeavor came about because of a call I received from Cindy Vees, executive director of the Madison County Chamber of Commerce, asking 850 to profile her county. During a series of back-to-back meetings over two days, I met with the community leadership. And, honestly, that’s the favorite part of my job — meeting new people, listening and learning.

What I learned during that trip is that Madison County is led by individuals who have a unique sense of pride in their home and care deeply for this place where so many are small business owners. There is the owner of a downtown Mexican restaurant who keeps a special red phone next to his register — so that members of the local Hispanic community can call home AT NO COST. Then I met David Abercrombie, CEO of Madison County Memorial Hospital, who is building a new 25-bed state-of-the-art critical access hospital that will open in the spring. John Grosskopf, president of North Florida Community College, proudly reported his school had been ranked second among all national community colleges in a recent report released by Washington Monthly. And then there was the president of the community bank who left Tallahassee and the big box banks to work and raise his family in a more rural environment — where he could do business with people whose names he would know.

I so look forward to returning to meet many more business leaders so the report you read next spring will inform you about the diamond we have found on the eastern edge of the 850 region — and perhaps entice you to expand your business there one day.

Meanwhile, in the next issue of 850, which will be available on Dec. 15, we will present our fifth annual business profile of Tallahassee and Leon County. This Capital region is experiencing one of the greatest spurts of construction and expansion I have seen in many decades. And it is very heartening.

It is so good to see our region experiencing growing pains again … it just hurts so good!

Categories: Opinion