David Alfin Is A Man With A Plan

Newly elected Palm Coast mayor David Alfin seems to have been preparing for his new role for most of his life even though he probably didn’t know it at the time.
With a broadly-based business background that has included stints working for a multinational company, working for his family’s large cosmetics company, running a small local distribution company and working in real estate for about 10 years here, this native of St. Petersburg acquired a tremendous wealth of business experience.
This knowledge and experience looks to serve him well as he takes on what is probably the most important job he’s ever had. He didn’t say this in so many words, during a recent interview in his modest office in city hall, but it’s hard to infer anything different after listeing to him describe the future plans that are in place for the city of Palm Coast.
As a 10-year resident of the area, Alfin is well aware of the challenges facing Palm Coast in the years to come and is confident that the future plan for the city — and the county — is the right way forward to create economic opportunity, provide the area with upgraded medical facilities and enhance the ooverall quality of life here for everyone.
In an interview that touched on a variety of subjects, the one overriding theme that was present was that of his desire to embrace public service. It’s sometimes easy to dismiss this feeling when it is expressed by a politician, which Alfin is now.
But after listening to him describe the development plans that are in place, that will hopefully brighten the area’s future development in all areas, not just business, it’s hard not to feel that he means what he says.
Part of this is due to Alfin’s natural positivity but it’s also due to the fact that the plans he is excited about are actually well-grounded in business principles as well as social concerns. In other words, it isn’t just development for development’s sake but rather a way to also increase the well being of all the area’s residents.
It all starts with education. And it has actually already started, if only in a small way, but the path forward looks clear and smooth, with a logical progression of steps that need to be taken to achieve the overall result.
The education part of the plan was predicated on luring universities to open facilities here that would provide medical training for students. To that end, Jacksonville University and North Florida University have established branches here with the intention of creating full-scale medical learning facilities.
Both initiatives were in the works going back to at least 2018 and both have the imprint of previous Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland, whose behind-the-scenes negotiations over the past few years and network of connections in higher education and in Tallahassee helped foster and solidify the plans.
Rep. Paul Renner, who represents Flagler County, was key in steering Jacksonville University toward Palm Coast and Holland, when the university was looking for the right fit for expansion. Renner was also key in shepherding the UNF deal.
So Alfin’s mandate as mayor, as he sees it, is to bring these developments to completion and to continue the ongoing process which will provide more higher-paying jobs for the city, more educational opportunities for locals and more of a commercial tax base, along with other benefits.
Universities are, in themselves, engines for growth. Not only are jobs provided by the institutions directly but a variety of businesses tend to also be drawn to these areas, especially since these are medical facilities. The number of medically-oriented businesses such as labs, research companies, suppliers, etc. is certain to grow around any medical training school and Palm Coast now has two.
The number of students that are currently attending classes at Jacksonville University, operating out of temporary quarters in the City Center complex, is only 50 but is expected to grow to 150 within 24 months.
The University of North Florida (UNF) is partnering with the city of Palm Coast, Daytona State College, AdventHealth and Allete Energy to create MedNexus. It is being billed as the nation’s first comprehensive, university-based medical and health care nexus, partnering with local medical centers and connecting health care providers with university students, faculty and researchers.
Alfin alluded also to the fact that another university is going to locate a branch here in the not too distant future which will help to accelerate the progress as well.
With the advent of these projects the first step in the overall development plan is now in place. Next comes what will hopefully be an influx of businesses, as mentioned above, that want close proximity to these facilities.
The jobs that these companies create will generally be higher paying than typical service industry or hospitality industry jobs, which will make it easier for employees to live in the city instead of having to commute from less expensive surrounding areas.
This will help solve another problem that Palm Coast currently faces: affordable housing for workers at many of the city’s businesses. One of the contributing factors to the labor shortage in Palm Coast is the lack of housing for people who are employed in the city’s many retail businesses.
Obviously, the longer people have to commute to go to a job the less interested they will be. Housing that is affordable in the city would help alleviate that situation to a degree although that in itself is another challenge Mayor Alfin faces.
Here’s where other facets of his previous experience come into play as he was involved with both the Flagler County Affordable Housing Committee and the local Homebuilder’s Association over the years.
The underlying problem, as he sees it, is that “You’re never going to convince developers and builders to build houses to earn less profit then they could on something else. It’s not gonna happen, it doesn’t fit our capitalistic market system so you have to build a business model first that makes sense.”
He sees the land west of Route One as being potentially affordable for lower-cost housing and he’s confident that there are developers in Florida that would be interested in coming to Palm Coast because that is already their existing business model.
An even more pressing problem is finding housing for the students that are now attending classes in the temporary quarters that are located in the City Center complex. This area is eventually going to have more housing and a retail component which will be needed when there is a larger population in the immediate area.
There were a number of other issues that were raised during the wide-ranging conversation which we had that would require much more space than is available here but we will report on the issues raised in this article as they occur in the coming months.
In the meantime, though, it appears as if Palm Coast has a mayor that, for many reasons, seems to be the right man for the job at hand. As he told us, “Timing is everything and the opportunity is here now.” We hope he can take full advantage of it for the good of Palm Coast and everyone here.
— Tom Aikins