The Main Street Playhouse and Event Center was a full house on Wednesday, Dec. 16 as citizens, business owners, commissioners and other city government officials gathered for a special kick-off meeting from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). At the meeting, Mayor Ina Thompson, along with several DEO officials, announced that the City of Madison was awarded the Competitive Florida Partnership Grant, a grant with one simple purpose: to help Madison assess its strengths and weaknesses to design an action-oriented development plan with the help of DEO. The meeting kicked off with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Commissioner Jim Catron and invocation given by Marcus Hawkins. Mayor Thompson welcomed everyone to the meeting and described why the city of Madison applied for the Partnership Grant. Defuniak Springs and Putnam County also received the grant. Mayor Thompson recalled that, with the help of Dr. Helen Miller, the application was turned in after five weeks of gathering sponsors and information about Madison to begin the compilation of a strategy plan. The grant is a three-year commitment, and the first year of the program, according to Liesl Voges, grant program manager, revolves around data collection of Madison's strengths, weaknesses, points of interest, industrial land, facilities and other important statistics. By relying on community conversations and receiving feedback from the community, the DEO is able to figure out what the people of Madison want the grant to go towards; the grant gives the city access to every department in Florida that has grants for several different areas and could be used for a variety of things, from marketing to engineering, website design and more. After a short refreshment break, Mayor Thompson identified businesses and individuals who became stakeholders, which include: Bob Mcknight of Defuniak Springs; Buckeye Community Bank; Genesis Timber; Madison County Community Bank; Treasures of Madison County; O'Toole's Herb Farm; Madison County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism; Dr. Gary Cox with the Ministerial Association; Superintendent Doug Brown; George English with the U.S. Tennis Association; United Way of Big Bend; Madison Health and Rehab; Kim Scarboro, North Florida Community College; Tri-County Electric; Lucille Cherry; CAC group; Florida Firewood; Madison Metals; Tim Day and John Anderson. As of right now, the immediate action plan is to continue to identify all of the assets, liabilities and stakeholders in order to fully assess what should be done with the Competitive Florida Partnership Grant. Dr. Miller stressed the importance of having all of the segments of the community participate. After all of the information is collected from the community, Miller, along with the DEO staff a part of the grant program, will assemble an action-oriented economic development plan. If anyone part of the Madison County community would like to provide assistance in the action of the development plan, please contact Mayor Ina Thompson at (850) 973-2328.