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Remarks by Commerce Secretary Wilbur L. Ross at the Jackson County Extension Services in Marianna, Florida


Introduced by Clint Pate, Chairman, Jackson County Board of County Commissioners.

Thank you, Clint, for that kind introduction and for welcoming us to what will soon be an impressive new manufacturing and production site. And my thanks to President and CEO of Enterprise Florida Jamal Sowell, Commissioners Jim Peacock and Eric Hill, and Mayor Travis Ephriam for joining us this morning. Together with the public and private sectors, your work creating an economic development roadmap that strengthens the regional economy, supports private capital investment, and creates new jobs, is very impressive.

I am pleased to be here with you on Manufacturing Day, our country’s annual celebration of “Made-In-America.” And I echo President Trump’s gratitude - during today’s proclamation - for the entrepreneurs, innovators, and workers in manufacturing who make our communities strong and prosperous.

Overall, manufacturers in the United States accounted for more than $2 trillion in total economic output in 2018. And here in Florida, more than 12,000 manufacturing firms generated $55.9 billion.  Manufactured goods exports accounted for 91.6 percent of the state’s total goods exports last year, amounting to $51.4 billion, and reflecting growth of more than 8.9 percent since 2010. And the industry supports more than 12 million jobs in the United States.

In addition, since President Trump’s arrival in office, Florida saw manufacturing employment grow by more than 28,000 jobs. And despite the challenges we faced this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sector is experiencing renewed growth in recent months, with 716,000 U.S. workers returning to their manufacturing jobs since April.

As your community continues its recovery from Hurricane Michael’s disruption in 2018 along with this year’s pandemic and hurricane season, I am grateful to the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners for recognizing the opportunities manufacturing offers workers who want to develop and use the latest technology to build lasting, meaningful careers.

It’s why I am pleased to announce that the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration is investing $2.6 million in Jackson County. The grant will be used for the construction of a new 50,000 square foot building here on the 1,280-acre future Jackson County Industrial Park. The building will support 44,000 square feet of warehouse and manufacturing space and 6,000 square feet of office space, available for use by commercial and industrial equipment manufacturing and distribution businesses.

EDA’s grant will be matched by $2 million from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Small Cities Community Development Block Grant program. This proposed construction project will create an estimated 200 new jobs, retain another 200 existing jobs, and generate $2 million in private investment. And it is strategically located under two miles from the Interstate 10 and SR 276 interchange.

This project will also aid in the formation of new business operations locally. Your regional economy has been rooted in agricultural tradition since Jackson County was formed in 1822. And your county is also home to FCI Marianna — a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility and the third largest employer here.

But the 2018 damage caused by Hurricane Michael to the prison, to 90 percent of the county’s row crops, and to 70 percent of the timber, is requiring creativity in your economic recovery. So, I am pleased that this grant will help Jackson County to diversify and chart new commercial pathways. We will look forward to the groundbreaking and grand opening of this new building and industrial park, and to watching this region flourish once more.

Before I close this morning, I would be remiss if I did not mention how essential it is for everyone to complete the Census. To date, Jackson County’s self-response rate is 57.2 percent. And 55.5 percent of residents in the city of Marianna have self-responded so far. You are currently well-shy of Florida’s average total response rate of 97.6 percent, a figure that includes self-response as well as nonresponse follow-up.

So you must really push hard and engage with your workers, your community organizations, and your local governments to stress the importance of going online and filling out the form. So much depends on having an accurate count, including the allocation of billions of dollars in federal funds over the next decade, and your representation in Congress. The disbursal of future housing, healthcare, and educational funds are all determined by the 2020 Census.

And self-responding online saves an enumerator a trip to your home to administer the Census in-person. You may not know that I too was a census-taker in 1960 while I was still attending college. It was one of my very first jobs, so as you can imagine, the Census effort remains close at heart for me.

This year, we have a 99 percent national total response rate, and more than 145 million total households have been counted in the 2020 Decennial Census so far. I hope I’ve encouraged those of you who haven’t yet to join them by responding today at

Thank you again for welcoming me to the “City of Southern Charm.” Now, I’d like to call Clint back up here, along with Jackson County Economic Development Committee Chairman Darwin Gilmore, Jackson County Administrator Wilanne Daniels, and Marianna City Manager Jim Dean to accept this well-deserved grant of $2.6 million for the new manufacturing and production building here at the Jackson County Industrial Park. Congratulations!