THE ISSUE: Fire Up Citrus! 2019.

OUR OPINION: The forum is necessary to showcase innovation.

Since 2013, the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce’s initiative Fire Up Citrus! has served as a platform for every day citizens to share their dreams for Citrus County.

At Fire Up Citrus! 2019, presenters had just five minutes to pitch innovative concepts to spur economic development and improve quality of life in Citrus — and some of the ideas brought forward this year have definite potential.

From a cat café to an economic development “sweet spot” cleverly planned near the Suncoast Parkway’s State Road 44 interchange, the 12 unique ideas introduced at the event could mean big enhancements for Citrus County.

Over the years, the Fire Up Citrus! has generated new pathways to inspire positive change in Citrus, and it has been extremely successful.

Some past conceptualizations brought to life from Fire Up include the Citrus County Construction Academy (up and running at Withlacoochee Technical college), Treetop Adventure & Zip Line (built and operating), The Path Grove (operating), the Crystal River trolley service for tourists (operating), Veterans Village (county has dedicated land for anticipated future construction), and Pedal-Powered Works of Art (underway). These informative, animated and often whimsical sessions bring together community, government and business leaders to hear the spirited ideas of citizens and help move the county forward in a positive manner.

The Chamber does an excellent job in leading this endeavor and in involving the public to participate in the process.

After hearing each presenter, Fire Up attendees are given a survey to vote on which projects they like the best. The Chamber tallies up the surveys to determine what projects are deemed worth moving forward. This year’s crowd at the Valerie Theatre had 150 citizens lending their opinions to better our county — that’s impressive.

This session had some solid ideas, the outcome of which will include further stimulated discussion and smart planning of growth in Citrus. Ideas, without a doubt, flow in creative spaces.

To further enhance the presentations of Fire Up Citrus!, perhaps the Chamber can recruit additional partners to be involved, like SCORE, as well as assisting presenters in attaining seed money for the best ideas.

It’s great to see the Citrus community looking forward. Fire Up Citrus! proves year after year to be an effective incubator for economic development.

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