POINCIANA – Politicians often play a major role in helping a community get much-needed support from state and county government, not to mention funding for local projects.
State Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, for example, played an instrumental role in convincing the state of Florida to give Osceola Regional Medical Center of Kissimmee permission to build a hospital in Poinciana, the community’s first.
“She is a Republican and I’m a Democrat,” said Annette Brown, who used to be a member of the recently disbanded Friends of the Poinciana Hospital group. Dockery, though, really delivered for Poinciana on this project, Brown said.
“When it came to the hospital, she was the one who got me up to Tallahassee,” Brown said of the state capital. “She was the only one who was behind us at the time.”
But while that support is greatly appreciated, the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance, which Brown is also a member of, is moving cautiously when it comes to accepting support from political leaders. Their main concern: to remain as non-partisan as possible, without necessarily alienating the political leaders whose assistance they may need down the road.
“In the context of PEDA, we have as our specific task and focus to get jobs in our community,” said the alliance’s chairman, Nick Murdock. It is not, he said, supposed to be a vehicle for any political platform or ideology.
The problem is compounded, he said, by the fact that Poinciana has a huge number of political leaders representing the community’s 10 villages, from commissioners in both Osceola and Polk counties – Poinciana, a community of more than 80,000 residents, is divided between both counties – to state legislators and congressmen of both parties.
“We have approximately 15 core politicians who have a big impact on what happens here in Poinciana,” Murdock said.
PEDA is organizing an informational event on Thursday, Sept. 22, to meet with local residents and talk to them about a series of construction jobs expected to come to Poinciana next year. The event will be at the Poinciana Community Center at 395 Marigold Ave. from 6-8 p.m. Members of the alliance plan to discuss the construction projects on the way, let participants know what they need to do to qualify for those jobs, offer help with resume writing and interviewing techniques, highlight additional training opportunities, and provide information on upcoming job fairs — including one the alliance has scheduled for Jan. 19.
These job fairs are in anticipation of a host of new construction projects expected to begin next year, bringing what Murdock has estimated will be up to 7,000 new construction jobs to Poinciana.
Those include the hospital, a SunRail commuter rail station being built off Poinciana Boulevard and Orange Blossom Trail, and the Poinciana Parkway, a new toll road.
Murdock said he hopes to avoid having elected officials use these job fairs for campaigning or politicking.
“We don’t want candidates to come in and get endorsements from PEDA,” he said.
The issue came up in part, he said, because Dockery has scheduled a public hearing on Oct. 11 to meet with Poinciana residents and talk about road projects in the area. Murdock said that while he welcomes the support of Dockery and other local lawmakers in helping Poinciana get state or federal funding for important projects, he added, “We are a non-political organization. We have our own plans. Our purpose here is to get Poinciana residents jobs.”
Brown agreed, saying taking sides in political campaigns will only alienate residents in the long run, even though it doesn’t hurt to have influential political leaders backing regional projects that create jobs or bring services to the community.
“You don’t have to be in agreement with them on everything,” Brown said. “It’s a thin line, but you have no choice.”
Besides, Brown said, “That’s their job, to work for the citizens.”
Murdock agreed, saying, “Paula is going to be here, and I think she needs to understand we mean business here. We want these politicians to take us seriously. Poinciana is a community on the move here. Poinciana is a growing community, and we want to be a part of the leadership team.”
The alliance met this morning at the office of Manhattan Kraft Construction in Poinciana to finalize plans for the informational event on Sept. 22 – just two weeks away at this point.
“Two weeks from tomorrow is our job fair,” Murdock said. “I hope everyone is ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.”
Murdock predicted it would be a success, and that residents would turn out to learn what they need to do to be ready for the new construction jobs coming to Poinciana.
“We just have a great group of people here,” he said. “All of you have worked very hard. It’s just a pleasure to see us progressing like this.”
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