ALACHUA – The city of Alachua's number one export could be employment.

The population of Alachua is about 9,000 people, according to the 2010 census. After subtracting the people below 18 and above 62, the population sits at about 5,000. The city has over 5,000 jobs, said Adam Boukari, assistant city manager. That means Alachua has more jobs available than people to do them. This makes the city a job exporter, creating employment for people in surrounding communities.

From an economic standpoint, Boukari said having fewer working-eligible people than jobs can be a good thing.

“You want your community to be self-sustainable,” he said. “We want people who live in our community to have an opportunity to be employed in our community.”

Progress Corporate Park employs over 1,000 people alone, Boukari said. Then there are the distribution centers for Cisco, Walmart and Dollar General, which employ about 1,500 people combined. That’s in addition to all the small businesses, he added.    

“We're able to attract business here,” he said.

Representatives from any of these three companies were not available to comment on the exact number of people they employ or what makes Alachua an attractive place for them.

However, Boukari gave a couple of reasons why the city draws in businesses.

He pointed to the quality of life in the area as one reason.

“I think it's one of the biggest things that bring people to Alachua.” Everything else being equal, the quality of life in Alachua can be a clincher, he said said.

Another reason is the tax rate, he said. The millage rate, the amount per $1,000 that is used to calculate taxes on property, is 5.5 percent. It might not be the absolute lowest in the area, but it's still competitive, he said.

Location might be a driving factor, too, noted Gib Coerper, mayor of Alachua. The town is central to several towns in Florida and Georgia, making it a good place for a distribution center.

The city streamlines the process for businesses setting up shop, Coerper said. When a company comes in, Alachua helps them set up their infrastructure and hook up utilities such as sewage.

“The City tries to find a way to help them get here and be successful.”

The willingness of the community to accept these businesses also plays an important role, Coerper said.

“They wanted the businesses”he said.  

Alachua continues to attract jobs at a faster rate than it increases in population.

Last month, Governor Rick Scott announced that the biopharmaceutical company Nanotherapeutics, Inc. based in Alachua will open a new manufacturing plant being built with a contract from the Department of Defense.

The plant is expected to bring in about 150 jobs, Governor Scott said.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Hubert Jacques, who at almost 60 says he is “at the pinnacle of his advanced career in governmental finance,” will be the man who will help chart the City’s financial future as the new finance director.

Jacques, who will come onboard June 24, 2013, has had more than 25 years experience in state and local governmental financial management and operations. He has been a Certified Government Finance Officer (CGFO) in Florida since 2001 and has been a member of the Florida Government Finance Officers Association (FGFOA) since 1997.

According to his resume, Jacques has been a Senior Finance Manager and Business Division Manager for Seminole County Environmental Services Department since 2010. He provided strategic financial leadership, which included rate making, rating agency reviews and modeling of utility acquisition and sale opportunities.

He led four sections in the county’s Business Division, which include permitting, billing, customer service and accounting. He also oversaw accounts receivable and payable, grant accounting, general accounting purchasing, payroll and financial reporting.

He developed and administered two large budgets; a $48 million annual operating budget and a $300 million capital budget that built and expanded surface water treatment, ground water treatment and wastewater treatment facilities. He also collaborated with other division managers and the director in allocating financial and human resources.

One aspect of his experience that High Springs commissioners may appreciate is his ability to brief commissioners on matters coming to the board for approval. In his current position, Jacques personally reviews all the financial reports, makes corrections and then translates the numbers into verbal or written reports to help staff, elected officials and citizens better understand what those figures mean.

Although Jacques has a financial manager in his current position, he explained, “I do not have any qualms about doing the day-to-day operations of a finance director in a small town. I am well versed in all of the current rules and regulations that need to be followed and routinely attend seminars and take advantage of other continuing education opportunities.”

Asked why he would consider moving to a small town after providing financial leadership to a government serving 123,000 water and wastewater utility and 66,000 solid waste customers, Jacques replied, “I’ve gone as far as I can with the credentials and experience I have. I now need to begin planning for our retirement.”

“I looked at our financial status and retirement destinations and found that the northwest Alachua County area was an ideal location for us. It has the university community nearby and all that it can offer. Also we are outdoors people. Northwest Alachua County has a huge variety of parks and recreational opportunities, which we want to be able to enjoy.”

“In our retirement planning, we targeted two areas in the state. This opportunity came along and together with its locale, makes it a very desirable situation for us.”

Not only does the university provide a rich and varied experience for the Jacques couple, but it also provides an easy commute for Jacques to maintain his 80 hours of continuing education, which is required every two years in order to maintain his credentials.

While Jacques was Director of Academic Support Services at the University of Central Florida, College of Business Administration in Orlando, he completed a full-time master’s degree in Business Administration while working full time. With additional post graduate coursework and seminars under his belt since 2008, Jacques has not yet decided if he will use his proximity to the university to advance his degree.

Instead he says he is more excited about the opportunity to help the city manager, staff and citizens to make a difference.

“I have always been a very good steward of my government’s financial resources,” he said. “I am constantly aware that it is the citizens’ money that we are administering. It is my responsibility as a finance officer to make sure their money is safeguarded and used to benefit the citizens.”

The couple visited the area this past weekend and found a home to rent nearby Newberry.

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Now headed to Moore, Okla., the Gentle Carousel Horses have recently visited children’s hospitals and the Sandy Hook/Newtown, Conn., area.


HIGH SPRINGS –Debbie Garcia-Bengochea, husband Jorge, and the Gentle Carousel Horses are on the road again. This time they are heading to Moore, Okla., after receiving several requests for visits from area hospitals and families of children affected by the recent devastating tornado.

“This was another group of telephone calls we just couldn’t say ‘no’ to,” explained Garcia-Bengochea. “It was the very best thing we could do, so we’re doing it. Anytime there are children involved, we know we can help,” she said.

The team of miniature therapy horses just returned from a second trip to Sandy Hook/Newtown, Conn. They visited children's hospitals on the way starting with St. Jude Children's Hospital in Memphis and ending at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital. They also worked with victims of child trafficking in Washington, DC.

“On the way back to Florida we will be stopping at various children’s hospitals on our route,” she said. “We want to be there to support as many children and caregivers as possible.”

One of the benefits of working in different cities and recently working in Washington, DC is the couple’s new-found ability to contact sources to help them coordinate their visits. In addition to the local people in Oklahoma, FEMA and the Health Department are all pitching in to help. “We have people we can call on now to help us, which is great,” she said.

Garcia-Bengochea also extols the virtues of social media. “So many more people know who we are now because of our Facebook page and the press coverage we have received along the way. It really helps,” she said.

Also, unlike their first trip to Connecticut, there are teams of people along the way and in Oklahoma who have volunteered to help with the horses and to provide locations for them to rest and play between visits to the families. “It’s more economical for us if we do not have to bring a team of volunteers with us,” she said.

Gentle Carousel Miniature Therapy Horses is an all volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity. The teams of 32 miniature therapy horses visit over 20,000 children and adults each year inside hospitals, hospice and assisted living facilities, libraries and school programs for at-risk readers.

Anyone wishing to learn more about the program or donate to the organization can contact them on their Facebook page at

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GAINESVILLE - Nutritionally-balanced breakfasts and lunches will be provided to all children 18 years old and younger at no charge. The Summer Food Service Program, offered nationally through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is available in geographical areas of need, defined as those areas where 50 percent or more of the children qualify for free and reduced-price meals during the school year. However, children do not have to be eligible for free and reduced-price meals to participate in the summer program, nor must they be enrolled in a participating school. Parents and students can simply come to the school during the serving times and check in.

A partial listing of participating sites include:

(B=Breakfast & L=Lunch)

Alachua Elementary

13800 NW 152 Pl. Alachua, Fl. 32615

B(7:30-8:00) L(11:30-12:00)

6/10 thru 7/18 (Mon-Thurs)

Closed 7/4 & 7/5

Archer Community                          

14533 SW 170 St. Archer, Fl. 32618

B(7:30-8:00)   L(11:00-11:30)

6/10 thru 7/25 (Mon-Thurs)

Closed 7/2, 7/3, 7/4

Hawthorne High                              

21403 SE 69 Ave. Hawthorne, Fl. 32640

B(8:30-9:00) L(11:15-11:45)

6/10-6/27 (Mon-Thurs

Irby Elementary                                  

13505 NW 140 St. Alachua, Fl. 32615

B(7:30-8:15) L(11:30-12:00)

6/10 thru 6/27 (Mon-Thurs)

Mebane Middle                                    

16401 NW 140 St., Alachua, Fl. 32615

B(8:00-8:30)   L(11:30-12:00

6/10 thru 7/25 (Mon-Thurs)          

Closed 7/4

Newberry High                                    

400 SW 258 St. Newberry, Fl. 32669

B(8:30-9:00)   L(11:30-12:00)

6/10 thru 7/2 (Mon-Thurs)

Santa Fe High                                      

16213 NW U.S. 441 Alachua, Fl. 32615

B(7:30-8:00) L(12:00-12:30)

6/10 thru 8/2 (Mon-Thurs)

Closed 7/1 thru 7/5

Shell Elementary                                

21633 SE 65 Ave. Hawthorne, Fl. 32640

B(7:45-8:15) L(10:30-11:00)

6/10 thru 6/27 (Mon-Thurs)

Waldo Community                              

14450 NE 148 Ave. Waldo, Fl. 32694

B(7:30-8:00)   L(11:00-11:45)

6/10 thru 7/18 (Mon-Thurs)      

Closed 7/4 & 7/5

For a complete listing of sites throughout Alachua County, visit and select the “Lunch Menu” link.

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The Civil Air Patrol was onsite at Hitchcock’s Market Saturday for a Memorial Day celebration to raise money for troops serving overseas.

ALACHUA – People gathered last weekend to eat barbecue and play games, all while supporting a cause.

Last Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Hitchcock's Markets in Alachua held a Memorial Day celebration in its parking lot to raise money for the Military Support Group of Alachua, which sends care packages to soldiers overseas. Last year, they raised over $3,000.

“People don't realize everything isn't supplied,” said Tamara Spear, member of the Military Support Group of Alachua, when talking about service members. Her organization sends soldiers everything from toothpaste to socks and games.

This year, about 500 people showed up at the celebration, which included inexpensive food, music, a dunking booth, and an ice slide and bouncy castle for the kids, said Candi Kish, human resources director for Hitchcock's.

“We thought this was a good way to support local military,” Kish said. One of Hitchcock's employees even served in Afghanistan, she added, making the event more meaningful.

The festivities started wrapping up at about 2:30 p.m. when the Gainesville Color Guard held a flag ceremony.

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Andrew Geelhoed “gets his wings clipped” by Express Air Flight Instructor, Randall Taylor. Geelhoed successfully completed his first solo flight on his sixteenth birthday at Keystone Heights Airport on May 9.

Unlike most boys, when Andrew Geelhoed turned 16 on May 9, he probably wasn't too concerned with getting his driver's license.

When he awoke for his birthday, he drove from his High Springs home to the airport in Keystone Heights with his mother Kathy for his first solo flight.

"I was so nervous," Andrew said. His mother was no less worried.

Ever since he can remember, Andrew has been interested in planes and flying. He started his training in the virtual world with Microsoft Flight Sim X.

The Santa Fe High School sophomore first took the controls of a real plane when he was 12. A coworker of his dad with the Gainesville Civil Air Patrol bought him lessons. He was a little scared of his first flight, but that quickly changed, he said.

"I couldn't believe it when the instructor handed me the controls."

Since then, he has spent about 25 hours in the air.

When he first pulled into the Keystone Heights Airport on his birthday earlier this month, he found a Cessna 150 plane fueled up and ready to go. He got inside, went through the pre-flight checklist, and told his flight instructor, Randall Taylor, everything was clear.

As his mother watched him, she thought of all the mishaps that could happen to her oldest child.

After Andrew entered the plane with Taylor, they took the plane to the runway. Andrew then called out on the radio "Keystone Area Traffic Cessna 8536 Uniform departing runway 29 to the northwest, Keystone Traffic."

After that, he took the plane off and headed northwest. After completing two landings, Andrew landed the plane for Taylor to get off. He wasn't completely on his own, though. He had his flight instructor guiding him over the radio.

He spent about half an hour circling over the airport at 1,200 feet in the air, unable to really see the landscape below him through the clouds.

Without the instructor, "The plane felt lighter," Andrew said.

When he finally landed, his mother felt a burden being relieved.    

"I breathed a sigh of relief," she said. When the seasoned pilots hanging around the airport began complimenting Andrew's landing, his mother felt less worried.

"That really put my mind at ease, she said."

With his first solo flight under his belt, it would be easy to think passing the test for his driver's license would be easy.

"He would tell you that driving is harder than flying," said Andrew's dad, Don Geelhoed. "It is!" Andrew added.

Many boys fantasize about the day they turn 16 and get to drive. For Andrew, he fantasizes about the day he gets his pilot's license, which he hopes to have when he is 17. He still has a way to go. Common requirements for a private pilot’s license include a minimum of 40 hours of flight time, an oral and written exam and that the student has flown more than 100 nautical miles in a single flight. The student pilot must also undergo a hands-on flight exam with a certified examiner.

After that, he plans on going to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs to train to be a pilot.

"I'm thinking I want to fly fighter planes," he said.

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ALACHUAThe City of Alachua will be literally paving the way for the new Nanotherapeutics facility to be built in town.

The biotech company Nanotherapeutics announced in March it had secured a contract from the Department of Defense (DOD) for $135 million up to $358 million over 10 years to develop drugs protecting against bioterrorism and disease epidemics at a new manufacturing plant. The City of Alachua now plans to renovate some roads to improve access to the plant.

The City wants to make sure roads, such as the one that will go into the plant from County Road 2054, are acceptable for long-term use, said Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper.

“Right now, there's only one access point to the site,” said Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari. In order for Nanotherapeutics to get their contract, they needed the City to make certain road improvements, Boukari said.

To do this, the City was awarded a grant totaling just a little over $1 million from the Florida Department of Transportation's Economic Development Transportation Fund.

Work hasn't been started yet, but Mayor Coerper said it would focus on improving existing roads rather than building new ones connecting to the plant.

The Alachua City Commission will officially accept the grant on June 10, and will make a decision on when to start construction after that, Boukari said.

“Right now, it's real preliminary,” he said. “We have not done any of the formal engineering.”

The cost of the road improvements are expected to be close to the $1 million granted to the City.

The renovations are expected to be completed between December and early spring 2014.

“It will absolutely be finished by the time the plant opens,” he said.

Nanotherapeutics started life in the early 2000's at the University of Florida Sid Martin Incubator, which aims to help bioscience startup companies. The new facility will be adjacent to Progress Corporate Park, where the company is currently located.

The new 145,000-square-foot expansion location will cost about $150 million and is expected to create 150 new jobs, according to press releases from the company. The firm will research and develop ways of treating chemical and biological attacks and outbreaks for the DOD.

Representatives of Nanotherapeutics could not be reached for comment.

The decision to remain in Alachua is huge news, not just for the city, but for the state, said Mayor Coerper. “I still haven't wiped the smile off my face when I learned they were building it here,” he said. The 150 jobs to be created are expected to have an average salary of $90,000, and the nearby Santa Fe College satellite campus will offer courses to train people to work those jobs, Coerper said.

The plant will be a huge opportunity for Alachua, Fla., and the entire country, said assistant city manager Boukari.

“Nanotherapeutics is going to be a big part of Alachua's future,” he said.

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