Crystal River, Florida - Citrus County officials say it will need to diversify the county's economy to survive Progress/Duke Energy's closing of the Crystal River Nuclear Plant. But to do so, some local business owners say the county needs to ease up on its regulations and make this a business-friendly place to set up shop.
"This has been a problem going on here for 20 years. They never wanted the community to grow," says John Romanik, owner of Crystal Medical Supply. John says getting his business started in Citrus wasn't easy, because the county preferred larger companies like Progress/Duke Energy.
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"Now the plant is shutting down and everybody freaks out," says John. "You can't put your eggs in one basket. That's what they've done, and as voters, we have allowed them to do that."
"I'll be the first to tell you many years ago, we were not a friendly place to do business," says Citrus County Commissioner Chairman Joe Meek. He adds, "Those days are over."
According to Meek, in 2008 new leadership stepped in and started diversifying the economy.
Meek says, "We've joined the Tampa Bay Partnership and become involved regionally in the economic development initiatives, lowered impact fees, changed every one of our rule and regulations in the last two years."
Meek says while the changes are beginning to attract businesses, the message has been slow to get out.
"Citrus County is open for business," he adds.
While the county looks to attract new revenue, so will businesses from as far away as Mulberry.
"They were telling us today they stopped all job orders and maintenance repairs until they get everything lined up on how to mothball the facility," says Jim Murphy owner of Florida Sealing Products in Mulberry.
The nuclear plant represents 20 percent of Jim Murphy's business, his client for 25 years. Jim says, "They were very good customers."
Murphy, like county leaders, will now look elsewhere to make up the money lost by the nuclear plant shutting down. Meek says, "The word needs to get out that it's a new day in Citrus County."