Economic Development & Commerce
Description of the Economy
Jefferson County is located in the Florida panhandle, 25 miles east of Tallahassee. The population of 13,000 is predominately rural. Monticello, the county seat, has a population of about 3,000. Agriculture has been the traditional base of the economy, but the community is in transition. The county serves as a bedroom for Tallahassee, the state's capital. Almost one half of the non-farm workforce commutes outside the county for employment, many to professional, academic, state government, service and trade jobs. In like manner, consumers in Jefferson County depend on Tallahassee and Thomasville, Georgia (20 miles north of Monticello) markets for hospitals and specialized health care, consumer durables, automobiles, sports and entertainment, and specialized retail purchases.
Population in the 1930, '40, '50, '60 and '70 census periods declined while high growth rates typified most of the central and south Florida counties. The county experienced positive growth with the 80 Census. Growth has been estimated at about 15% from 1990 to 1994. The population is roughly 56% white, 44% black, with the percentages reversed in the age group under age 18 years. With 22 people per square mile, the county population density is less than one-tenth Florida's density. The county is within the Second Congressional District, the largest district east of the Mississippi, indicating low population density throughout the region.
Employment and the Economy and Income
24% of county income is derived directly from agriculture and forestry. About 25% of total county income is from transfer payments. Unemployment is consistently below state average; in 1994 it was estimated at 5.4%. Over 90% of non-farm private employment is in small business, double the state rate. Per capita taxable sales was low compared to the state at $2,601, indicative of expenditures outside the county, similar to employment. Per capita income measured $14,575 in 1994, about two-thirds the Florida average of $20,650. 17.5% of households were below poverty level at the time of the 1990 Census. The county has been classified a persistent low-income county, one of only 6 in Florida that persist since the 1950 census with per capita income in the bottom quintile of counties.
The Monticello/Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce
The Chamber of Commerce is engaged in activities to advance and promote the general growth, prosperity, integrity and business development in the community. Due to the low population of Jefferson County, the Chamber is the central information point for many activities in the community and maintains a calendar of events and activities for the area. There are over 200 members in the Chamber and includes most businesses as well as many private individuals.
The Chamber has been housed in the old Catholic Church in downtown Monticello since the mid 1970's. The small, wood frame church, built in the early 1900's, offers the architectural design of many churches built during that period. Activities sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce include:
- Political Forums: Political forums are sponsored by the Chamber for most elections.
- Jefferson County Watermelon Festival: The Watermelon Festival is the highlight of community activities in Jefferson County. Started over 50 years ago to recognize the watermelon growers of the county, the festival includes beauty pageants, dinners, street dance, arts and crafts, melon run, sports events, and parade. Held each year at the end of June, the festival encourages community groups to sponsor events and raise funds for ongoing projects.
- Annual Trade Fair: The Trade Fair which is open to the public, is held each fall and gives Chamber members an opportunity to set up information/demonstration booths about their business.
- Fourth of July Fireworks Show: The Chamber helps raise funds to cover the cost of the annual fireworks display. Noted as one of the best in north Florida, the display is manufactured and put on by a locally owned fireworks company.
- Small Business Assistance (coordinated with Florida A & M University): Workshops are held monthly at the Chamber offering classes on many aspects of small business.
- Newcomer Information: Provide general county and local business information and plant basket donated by local florist to familiarize new residents with the county.
- Business Directory: Listing of all Chamber members updated annually.
- Christmas Celebration: Christmas celebration held in downtown Monticello the first Friday night in December. Highlights Christmas music, crafts and children's performances.
- Field Trial Banquet: Held in mid-January for a two week period at Dixie Plantation, this event has been held for over 100 years and is a trial for dogs and trainers. The trials take place over a course that encompasses almost the entire 10,000 acres of Dixie Plantation.
Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County, Inc.
The Economic Development Corporation of Jefferson County, Inc., is responsible for promoting and encouraging improvements for community development in the county. Operating from the Chamber of Commerce, the corporation consists of seven members.
The EDC established the following mission statement in 1992: To maintain the existing rural quality of life, increase the per capita income level, and develop additional retail and recreational services as needed by the citizens of Jefferson County.