The Development Group, Hardee County’s local economic development agency, has continued to engage citizens with unprecedented efforts. The organization has opened its doors to host community members, facilitating deep discussions and visioning with focus groups and the Building a Vibrant Community classes. In January 2024, The Development Group asked residents, via a county-wide survey Hardee Speaks, to help shape Hardee County’s economic future. The number of Hardee County residents that responded far surpassed the statistically significant sample size that research firms expected.

            With renewed community excitement for Hardee County’s economic growth, The Development Group hosted the Inaugural Meeting. The event took place in the historic Wauchula auditorium, guests were greeted in the lobby with results from the Hardee Speaks survey and renderings of future projects.

The Development Group CEO Denise Grimsley was the first to take the stage. She presented the vision for the county’s economic growth. She outlined how the organization aims to manage growth, promote prosperity, and create opportunity while preserving and enhancing Hardee County’s quality of life. The Development Group’s strategic plan is captured in 5 pillars: housing, healthcare, talent supply and education, transportation and infrastructure, recreation and tourism.

Grimsley introduced the Keynote speaker, Bill Yeargin. Yeargin is the CEO of Correct Craft. Correct Craft owns Mach Connections, a Hardee County business with 61 employees living in the county. Yeargin sparked excitement in the audience as he presented the economics of culture. Creating an attitude of purpose and service, Yeargin took the company to new levels of success. He provided each guest with copies of his books The Education of a CEO and Making Life Better.

Grimsley and Terry Atchley, Hardee County Manager, joined Yeargin on stage. The trio urged attendees to get involved and apply the principles of purpose and service to community engagement.  Denise Grimsley then announced the next six-week series of Building A Vibrant Community to commence on Monday, April 29.

Building A Vibrant Community is a blueprint written by Quint Studer that The Development Group is using to create meaningful change and spur community revitalization. The study generates ideas and action plans to make Hardee County more vibrant.

“A vibrant community is a place where young people can stay home after college and still fulfill their potential, a place that attracts talent and private investments, a place where a strong tax base leads to financial health. A place that’s safe and clean with a great education system,” Studer writes.

Grimsley encouraged the attendees to take the first step by joining the Building A Vibrant Community class each Monday, April 29 – June 10, from 5 – 7 p.m. (with the exception of Memorial Day.) Interested participants can find additional details at  

The main event concluded with guests walking down Main Street Wauchula to the historic train depot. The reception included seven stations of food and drinks catered by Chef Andrew of AdventHealth Wauchula, live jazz music, interactive activities, and a meet and greet with Bill Yeargin.

The Inaugural Meeting demonstrates The Development Group’s commitment to engage with Hardee County citizens, inspiring economic growth to create a strong community of integrity where people want to be.