POINCIANA – In the past few years, there’s been a concerted effort to bring a lot of critical things to Poinciana that this growing community desperately needs, including more shops and restaurants, a hospital, new jobs, and a highway that helps relieve traffic congestion.
There’s one other project in the works. A local non-profit group, looking at quality of life issues, is also pushing to make Poinciana a center for social service agencies.
Because even though Poinciana’s 10 villages are home to more than 84,000 residents, right now there isn’t a single, solitary social service office in the entire community, noted Nick Murdock, the chairman of the Poinciana Economic Development Alliance.
“PEDA is about social services,” Murdock said.
Right now, people living on the Osceola County side of Poinciana need to drive to Kissimmee to find a social service office, while those living on the Polk County side either must drive to Haines City or Winter Haven – a considerable drain on their time and gas money, Murdock added.
“Kissimmee has about 20 home-based social services,” Murdock said. “Haines City and Winter Haven have about the same. Poinciana has zero.”
PEDA was formed in July 2011 by several community activists in Poinciana, to find ways to bring more jobs to the community, and to ensure that local residents qualified for and landed some of the jobs coming to the community — including thousands of construction jobs expected to become available from the construction of the Poinciana Parkway, a proposed toll road that will break ground in November, and the Poinciana Medical Center, the community’s first hospital. That project broke ground in February and is expected to open next summer.
While those projects are clear success stories for Poinciana, Murdock said, so much more is needed, and this year PEDA has expanded its focus and is now working on quality of life issues as well, included getting more parks built here – and putting a focus on the need for social service offices as well.
PEDA is now negotiating with the Salvation Army to open a center in Poinciana, Murdock said, a project that he believes will happen sometime next year. PEDA has been spearheading efforts to get the Salvation Army to expand from its current office in Kissimmee to open a new one in Poinciana. A survey of local residents conducted by PEDA earlier this year, designed to demonstrate local support for this project, was a big success, added Murdock.
If it becomes a reality, the Salvation Army office in Poinciana would include a thrift store and service center for family services, one that could offer everything from character building programs and counseling and day care programs and music training for teens.
“I’m looking forward to the day soon when we can show the community the beautiful renderings for the building,” Murdock said.
At the same time, PEDA is also pushing to bring more commercial shops to both the Osceola and Polk County sides of Poinciana, Murdock said. He hopes to build on the recent openings of a RaceTrak and Marathon gas stations in the past few weeks.
That’s particularly true for the 32,000 people who live on the Polk County side of Poinciana, where there’s virtually no commercial at all, Murdock said.
If this trend toward new stores opening up continues, “Our residents will be able to not have to drive 10 miles to get some gas or a loaf of bread,” Murdock said.
The county governments could help, said Jeanette Coughenour, the manager of the community’s homeowners association, the Association of Poinciana Villages, by viewing Poinciana as one community, rather than an Osceola community and a Polk community.
“When you talk about Celebration or Harmony, they’re both in the same county,” she said of the two developments in Osceola County. “We straddle two counties.”
That means Poinciana has to work with two separate county governments to ensure residents on both sides are getting the services and attention they need, Coughenour added.
Jeff Goldmacher, a Poinciana resident and business owner who is now a candidate for a seat on the Osceola County Board of Commissioners, said sometimes that’s not as easy as it sounds. If a business is looking to relocate to Poinciana, and finds land available on the Polk County side, Osceola officials won’t take the time to show it to them, Goldmacher said.
“They won’t consider it, because that’s Polk County,” he said. “They will never show that property, even though it would benefit all of Poinciana. This is going to come up more and more as Osceola starts expanding. There is so much land available in Poinciana, and the two counties have to start working together.”
Osceola County Manager Don Fisher said the economic development offices in both counties actually work together more often than some people might assume, because it can be easier to sell the region rather than a single county. Plus, he added, if neighboring counties are doing well, that can spill over into Osceola as well.
“The idea of counties doesn’t even mean much when it comes to branding,” he said.
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