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Likwid ready to start fiber optics in Williston

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By David Davis

editor@chieflandcitizen.com

The Nature Coast Business Development Council has set five goals for 2018 to help build a stronger economic foundation for the future.

The goals include completing the economic impact statement for the Inglis whitewater kayaking venue; countywide broadband; investment launch; relaunching the business alliance and establishing a food-related business incubator.

Council Director David Pieklik opened a board meeting Thursday at the College of Central Florida Jack Wilkinson Campus with a discussion about broadband internet. He said he has been working with Likwid, a company based in Inverness. The business council wrote a letter of support, not particularly for Likwid, but for the project itself.

“Likwid is still alive and kicking. I don’t know what the pulse is, but they are still working,” Pieklik said. “They are going to start in Williston.”

He said Likwid has an investor, but it is uncertain if that investment would be enough to build the system to the size needed beginning in Williston and Chiefland and then branch out from there.

“Would it be practical to move forward with the money they have or do they want to wait and try to get these potential subscribers lined up? That was one of the sticking points in the past and that is why up until recently I was distancing myself because I didn’t see a hunger. I didn’t see a lot of activity,” Pieklik said. “We’re kind of in a wait and see how this goes [position].”

He said Likwid is using existing fiber infrastructure Comcast left behind when that provider pulled out, but there is legal wrangling over what Comcast wants to retain or relinquish. Likwid is trying to determine the final cost, which would determine the willingness of the investor from Ocala.

One board member said the American Farm Bureau Federation’s top legislative priority is the need to bring broadband to rural America because of intercommunications between smart equipment and for utilizing GPS.

“Without broadband, farms are not and will not be competitive. It’s a very strong economic need as well as food security to feed the country,” the board member said.

Pieklik said there are broadband delivery models such as satellite, pole-to-pole and even a system deployed by the military in Afghanistan.

Other discussion items included filling vacancies on the board and the economic impact statement for a kayaking project in Inglis. Completion of the EIS by the University of Central Florida is expected in April.

Richard Streeter, of Inglis, said a whitewater course in Inglis would have two advantages over any other similar venue in the country. It would operate year around and the water temperature is very important to Olympic kayaking.

“It [EIS] will have everything it can have to approach a vendor and with that vendor approach the state. With an investment this large, the state is going to have to kick in and there are reasons why they would, both remediation and economic development,” Streeter said.

He said the project would be environmentally important because the state would save the money it is currently spending on herbicides and dredging Lake Rousseau. The project would require lowering the level of the lake, which in turn would remediate the lake and the lower river. Also, it would be a huge economic impact on south Levy County. If the state contributes, then vendors can figure their returns on investment.

“Apparently, there is already interest developing in the fact that there is a study,” Streeter said.

He said after the interview that the idea of a whitewater venue began when Tampa and Orlando unsuccessfully bid on 2012 Olympics. They were looking at the barge canal and the spillway on Lake Rousseau as a kayak venue. They didn’t get the Olympics so the whole idea went away until about two years ago when a group from Dunnellon, Inglis and Yankeetown started talking about reviving the idea of turning the spillway into a whitewater kayak venue.

He said there is a 22-ft. drop over a distance of about 2 1/2-miles between the spillway and where it enters the Withlacoochee River.

“There would be infrastructure costs, but the first thing we need to do is see if it is financially viable. If it isn’t financially viable then there is no need in going any further,” he said.

The purpose of the NCBDC is to improve the quality of life in the communities it serves by furthering economic development in Levy County. The council focuses on small business startups and expansions with the primary objectives of increased employment, higher wages and business growth.

In addition to working on behalf of the county to attract and retain industry, the council works with the eight incorporated municipalities of Bronson, Cedar Key, Chiefland, Fanning Springs, Inglis, Otter Creek, Williston and Yankeetown.

The NCBDC also works with numerous community partners with similar goals and interests in order to have a more unified approach to economic development. CareerSource partially funds the organization and supplies employee training and other services.

The Small Business Development Center provides technical and other assistance. We also enjoy state partnerships with Enterprise Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the North Florida Economic Development Partnership. The agencies provide networking, professional and industrial and professional development opportunities.

Contact the Nature Coast Business Development Council by mail: P.O. Box 532, Inglis, FL 34449; by phone, 352-447-4107 Ext. 108; or visit www.naturecoast.org.