City of Palatka Economic Development Plan

DEO Competitive Florida Planning Grant $35,000 

The Palatka Economic Development Strategic Plan has been developed by theNortheast Florida Regional Council (NEFRC) and the City of Palatka to define the goals and their implementation of the City’s vision. This Plan was funded by the Florida Department of Economic  opportunity (DEO) through the Competitive Florida Partnership Grant informed by local stakeholders through a series of community meetings.

The goal of the Plan is to develop consensus and act as a “To Do List” for City residents, elected officials, and staff to tackle over the next several years. Plan recommendations focus on strengthening the city’s neighborhoods and downtown and building on already existing assets to make the city safer and stronger economically.”

Plan Recommendations

Goal #1: Address Blighting Conditions in Palatka

One consistent message from public meetings was the City needs to focus on blight within all neighborhoods and not just downtown. Vacant and abandoned houses and overgrown lots can lower property values, discourage investment, and become vectors for crime. A comprehensive blight reduction strategy will take time and resources, but will result in safer neighborhoods, more neighborhood pride, and increased access to affordable housing.

Goal 2: Continue to Support Downtown Development

Palatka residents expressed their pride in their downtown and recent revitalization efforts at each community meeting, but know that there is still much more to be done. A thriving downtown can be an economic engine for the entire City, drawing traffic and spending from the county, the region, and further.

Goal 3: Public Safety

Recent events in Palatka have made public safety a priority for residents, elected officials, and City staff. Blight reduction strategies will lead to real improvements over time, but steps need to be taken in the short term to address the recent spate of violent crimes. 

Goal 4: Improve Access to Affordable Housing

Affordable housing has become a statewide crisis, and Palatka is not immune – home sale prices in Putnam County increased by 25% in the last 12 months according to the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors. Improving opportunities to rent and purchase safe, decent, and affordable housing was a common theme at community meetings.

Goal 5: Implement Business Incubator Study Recommendations

In 2021 the City received a grant to study the development of a small business incubator. In February of 2022 the City Commission approved a contract from the top-rated bidder to perform the study. A business incubator can provide training and development assistance for local residents who wish to start a small business. 

Goal 6: Explore Possibilities of Palatka Municipal Airport

Across the Region and the State, municipal airports have emerged as potential economic drivers. There are many potential models to follow, from major employment centers like Northeast Florida Regional Airport in St. Augustine to smaller facilities like Keystone Heights Airport. The City should consider the possibilities available at the Palatka Municipal Airport and the resources needed to get there, and develop a plan to move forward. 

Goal 7: Improve Broadband Internet Access for City Residents

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how access to broadband is no longer a luxury but a necessary utility like electricity or water. The map on page 7 shows that many parts of the City still have very low rates of broadband access. The federal and state governments have made increasing broadband access a priority, with funding available in some cases. The City should set a goal for broadband adoption and explore different methods to reach it.

Goal 8: Continue to Explore Urban Services Boundary/Joint Planning Area with Putnam County

There is increasing demand within Putnam County for development which requires access to water and sewer service, while the City of Palatka has utility capacity available. Both governments need to work together to determine where it makes sense to expand urban services to areas outside of the City limits, and how those arrangements could work.

Goal 9: Examine Current City Policies and Strategies for Equity Impacts

City spending can have powerful effects on local businesses. The City should undertake a study to determine whether local businesses can fully participate in procurement processes, what the barriers are, and how to remove those barriers. Barriers could result from City  rocesses that are difficult for new bidders to understand or capital or scale requirements that are difficult to meet. Solutions could involve training for small business owners on how to meet requirements, or changing procurement process to be more inclusive of small business.