The State DEO has designated Century as a “Rural Community”. Here’s why it’s a big deal. : NorthEscambia.com

The town of Century has been designated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) as a “Rural Community”.

The designation makes Century eligible for the removal of matching fund requirements for WD programs and grants.

“Secretary (DEO) Dane Eagle’s partnership with this project and the awarding of millions of dollars for the city’s community centers shows the commitment to the revitalization of the region,” said Rep. Michelle Salzman. In April, Governor Ron Desantis awarded Century a $3.255 million grant to renovate two community centers.

Salzman, Century Mayor Ben Boutwell, FloridaWest, First Place Partners, DEO and other leaders worked for over a year to secure the designation.

Sometimes Century can be eligible for a grant, but it can be difficult to meet a financial matching requirement, Boutwell said, adding that designation is a big deal for the small town.

“It helps us with grants,” Boutwell said. “Now that we have this rural community designation, we no longer have to worry about matching 10 to 50 per cent. Now, we can go for grants with no return on investment; it will make our job a lot easier as a rural community.

“Century is still competing with Alabama, and Alabama is going to make a check, and Northwest Florida is going to lose,” said consultant Dave Murzin of First Place Partners. “This is a huge opportunity for Century’s economic development, combined with state and federal resources and their business fleet.

“The business park is very nice. Century needs to focus on I-65, north-south logistics. They have a bunch of land, why not go get a company, a public-private partnership, to build a custom building.

Century was able to achieve rural community designation by having an agriculture-related employment base, a population of less than 25,000, and three qualifying levels of economic hardship. These factors are a high poverty rate, low educational attainment and below-average median household income, Murzin said.

Salzman thanked Eagle and his team, FloridaWest and First Place Partners “for all the incredible work they put into this year-long project.” as she works to prioritize more projects in Florida House District 1 North Park.

“I’m so happy that we were able to bring together such a great partnership of community efforts to accomplish this incredible designation for the City of Century,” Salzman said. “This is collaboration in action.”

About Keneth T. Graves

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