At Wednesday’s Apopka City Commission, the Commission will consider a zoning change on land that has stood vacant for decades, and caused a ruckus of sorts at the last Commission meeting. The Commission is looking to change the zoning of a 10 acre piece of land off Cleveland street from Recreation to Industrial. The two ordinances sailed through their first reading in December, but somehow caught the eye of several community leaders at the early January meeting, and howls of protest went up. Cries of “not in my backyard or front yard” went up. One commissioner said he did not want “those kind of jobs (ie manufacturing) in those peoples communities”. When asked what kind of jobs he did want, this Commissioner stated, “I’m talking about jobs that aren’t manufacturing”. Commissioner Dean stated also stated during the exchange, “It’s a known fact that anything not worth a damn is put on the south side in a community where it is totally African American”. How can he say that a company with the potential to bring good paying jobs to the area not be “worth a damn”? Equally surprising and also a bit puzzling is a statement made by Dr. Ray Shackleford, another advocate for the betterment of the poorer communities in Apopka. “Jobs for the sake of jobs may not be in our best interest. Be fair to all people… respect the people south of 441”. I wish I even knew what that meant. All I can think is that Dean and Shackleford have appointed themselves spokespeople for South Apopka and have prejudged what “those manufacturing jobs” are and somehow determined these jobs are beneath the residents of South Apopka. They don’t want fast food jobs, they don’t want minimum wage retail jobs. What kind of jobs DO you want for the residents of South Apopka? Or maybe the people of South Apopka should be answering that question.
What exactly does Aero-Tel Wire and Harness do? They manufacture and assembly electronic equipment, boards and wire harness and cable assemblies. Most positions are skilled labor where tools like automatic wire cutters and strippers, crimping tools and dies, marking equipment and heat shrink guns are used. Aero-Tel offers a number of positions including entry level ones that offer on the job training in the use of this equipment and advancement potentials.
I’ve been selling electronic hardware and components for 26 years, and have toured many of these types of facilities. I would like to ask Dr. Shackleford, Rev Richard King (who also protested these jobs) and Commissioner Dean if they’ve toured Aero-Tel’s facility on Silver Star, OR any of the light manufacturing plants in Apopka. If not, maybe they should. They would find these facilities to be clean and quiet, both inside and out. These companies offer employees good pay, benefits and a future; a real opportunity to lift people out of poverty and keep them out of poverty. What’s wrong with that? Employees are learning skills that we need here in America to keep manufacturing jobs from going overseas and that will grow our economy. HubZone classification ensures that at least 35% of employees hired must live in that Hubzone. Again, I am failing to see the problem here.
I agree with Mayor Kilsheimer on this one, who stated, “it’s jobs for South Apopka in a very clean environment”. Approval of the zoning change on a piece of land that has stood vacant for decades is a big move in the right direction for the City and for South Apopka. Having a proven jobs creator move into this area could be the start of real economic improvement in an area of the City that certainly deserves it. I simply cannot see a downside to this and I have to ask Commissioner Dean, Dr. Shackleford and Rev King: What are YOU really afraid of?