BRAINSTORMING

THE ISSUE: Fire Up Citrus! coming Oct. 19.

OUR OPINION: Great opportunity to test-market ideas to improve our county.

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Some really innovative projects right here in Citrus County have started when someone had an idea and wondered, “What if ... ?” or “Why not ... ?” or “Who knows ...?” Sometimes it just takes focus and an appropriate arena for people to craft their ideas into messages that fire up listeners and stimulate action.

That arena since 2013 has been Fire Up Citrus!, a biannual Chamber of Commerce event to showcase positive new ideas. An encouraging number of projects and businesses proposed in Fire Up Citrus! presentations have emerged over the years. They include: Construction Academy, a Building Alliance project much in the news lately; the Veterans Village assisted living project, which has secured land and is now in the financing process; the life jacket program and drown-proofing education from Cayla’s Coats; the bike rack artwork in several areas from local artists; and Right Rudder’s “pilot pathway” flight training simulator at the Inverness airport.

Sometimes presenters just want to try out concepts to see if they could fly. For others, ideas have already percolated into action, but Fire Up Citrus! is a chance to publicize them to gain support or even ideas for course corrections. Such projects include: The Path’s Grove off Homosassa Trail, an orchard where shelter residents grow and harvest fruit for the shelter and other organizations; JAM (Just Amuse Me), the indoor family entertainment venue at the Crystal River Mall; and the “underwater” manatee exhibit presented by the Friends group at the new U.S. Fish and Wildlife center in Crystal River.

What exactly is Fire Up Citrus!? It’s a gathering of community members to hear quick, multimedia presentations from other community members on how to spark Citrus County’s economy. There are also refreshments, networking, and an energizing, uplifting keynote address.

It will be a stimulating, fast-paced evening. It’s competitive: this year just 12 applicants will be approved to participate. The challenge for each presenter is to deliver the message in five minutes flat, accompanied by a slide program of exactly 20 slides, which will advance automatically every 15 seconds. The format forces focus and clear communication.

Fire Up Citrus! is not a Shark Tank-type exercise with presenters vying for financing — although financial support may come as a result. It’s also not an advertising shot for established businesses. It’s about getting the word out about a new concept or way of doing something that will benefit the county.

A former presenter advised presenters to “go into it with the mindset that Fire Up Citrus! is a relatively painless way to test-market your idea. It forces you to distill your thinking, and you’ll get feedback to help you make it a better project — or, conversely, help you change your focus.”

We applaud the Chamber and all participants for their willingness to Fire Up Citrus!. It really does use local ingenuity to develop big ideas.