Panacea is a small town with less than 1,000 hardworking people situated on the coast of Wakulla County. While it is not an incorporated area, it is a close-knit community with a strong identity as a traditional working waterfront.
When driving through Panacea along the coastal scenic byway, you’ll see several seafood processing houses, local restaurants and breathtaking views of the saltmarsh estuaries that help this industry to thrive. However, also throughout this community are empty storefronts and buildings in disrepair that point to the signs of a once thriving community. In 1994 the statewide ban on gillnets crippled the local fishing industry. In response to the need for revitalization, in 2001 the community applied for and became designated as a Waterfronts Florida Partnership Community. This program helped the community to create a vision for redevelopment and establish a local community volunteer organization that is still active to this day. Over the past two decades, the community has worked diligently to re-establish themselves as a destination for eco-tourism, while adapting their seafood industry to the changing times.
While the vision and plan that Panacea developed through the Waterfronts Florida Partnership Program has helped to steer their growth to-date, it is now almost twenty years old and needs to be revised to reflect recent events, like Hurricane Michael, address ongoing problems, like the need for a grocery store, and define where the community wants to be 20 years from now.
Panacea, with assistance from the Apalachee Regional Planning Council (ARPC), recently applied to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and became designated as a Competitive Florida Partnership Community. Through this partnership, Panacea is creating a new economic development strategy.
The Competitive Florida Partnership began in 2014 at Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), when it piloted the Partnership Grant with cities and counties in Florida looking to revive their community and economic development efforts through an asset-based approach. Expanding traditional economic development programs’ notion of an “asset” (i.e. real estate and land), Competitive Florida encourages communities to identify social, not-for-profit, cultural, human, historic, recreational, and other assets to broaden the areas encompassed and impacted by their resulting economic development strategy