FOUR CORNERS – It’s called Wellness Way, but it doesn’t refer to a health care or physical fitness plan.
Some aspects of it do, though, as Sean Parks noted. That’s particularly true for the Four Corners region, he said.
“I think this whole area could be an incubator for the health and fitness industries,” he said.
Parks is a Lake County commissioner who is working with his colleagues on a proposal called Wellness Way, a kind of master plan for not just Lake but other regional counties as well, including Orange, Osceola and Polk – the counties that make up four corners. The concept is to develop a long-range plan for diversifying the local economy, improving the quality of life, and creating incubators that bring more jobs and industry to the region.
“It’s impactful for the Four Corners region,” Parks said on Thursday, as he made a presentation on the plan to the members of the Four Corners Area Council, the local business owners who meet once a month. The council held its July meeting on Thursday at ChampionsGate Golf Resort.
Parks and Scott Blankenship, director of Lake County’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism, made a presentation on a program that they said is designed to create one strong, enduring vision for the region, rather than rely on a series of ideas that simply never get implemented.
“We’re starting to get the word out on what we’re trying to do, what we’re trying to accomplish,” Parks said. “What is Wellness Way about? It’s about making ideas happen. Are we using the same old model of growth that doesn’t work? No. Some people are concerned about transportation, some people are concerned about water, some people are concerned about the economy. Wellness Way is about making all these ideas happen, and addressing issues and addressing quality of life. We must create value and bring something extra to the table.”
The bottom line, he said, is “We need to create a sustainable place, not just putting piecemeal projects out there. Let’s get a sense of identity for the Four Corners region and go from there.”
The plan, he said, encompasses “purpose driven planning, and responsible investment. What will tomorrow look like? What kind of place will we have for our children? That’s what Wellness Way is all about. We haven’t done a vision for this area.”
The plan covers an area that contains 16,000 acres of land, and runs from State Road 50 near Clermont in Lake County down to Four Corners along U.S. 27 and U.S. 192. It calls for creating business incubators that build on the strength of what this region already has.
“We all want to live in an area where we protect our water resources and clean our lakes,” he said. “We all believe we can protect our environment and have economic development at the same time.”
Creating business incubators is one way to do that, Parks said. He noted that Four Corners, which already has a growing number of local health care and medical offices, could become an incubator for the health and fitness industries.
Scott Barnhart, who runs the Citrus Ridge Health Center in Davenport, urged them to include Northeast Polk County in this vision, since the area already includes a fast-growing number of geriatric offices in an area popular with retirees and snowbirds.
“Have you looked into bringing Polk County into this?” Barnhart said. “There is a big geriatric community there, and my advice is to bring this area in there.”
“This is about a regional partnership,” Blankenship said. “The overall result is we get to where we want to be, and that is going to have a regional impact.”
Parks said he also envisions a science and technology incubator that builds on South Lake Hospital, the National Training Center and Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont, as well as an ecological research center incubator and agritechnology incubator.
“Incubation is about planting a seed,” he said. “In the next 12 to 18 months, we will put a plan together. A lot will happen. But you can’t go nationally or internationally out there until you have a plan.”
But if Wellness Way is planned and executed in a careful and intelligent manner, Blankenship said, “This will probably be the most strategic corridor in all of Central Florida.”
Gene Terrico, the chairman of the Four Corners Area Council, said it would also make Four Corners less of a bedroom community for Orlando than a thriving area in and of itself.
“The entire area would be a different lifestyle to live and work here,” he said.
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