A new, five-county regional economic development partnership for Southwest Florida got off the ground Nov. 10.
“It's important for us to be working together,” says Kathy Baylis, President and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. Baylis announced the creation of the Southwest Florida Economic Development Partnership at the EDC's monthly breakfast meeting — this one held in North Port at Heron Creek Golf and Country Club.
The program, moderated by Baylis, featured a panel of economic development agency representatives from the other partnering counties: Collier, Lee, Charlotte, and Glades. Each economic development group contributed $40,000 to get the operation running.
Florida Gulf Coast University is also a partner. Hendry and DeSoto counties have also been invited to join the partnership. Its Web site, still a work in progress according to Baylis, is www.abrighterplace.com.
“Companies don't care about political boundaries,” says Jim Moore, director of the Lee County economic development office. “That's why regions are important,” he adds. Moore is on a mission to diversify the Lee County tax base and has “in-market” and “out-of-market” teams working to assist existing businesses with expansions while also recruiting new businesses.
Allan Lane, manager of economic development for the city of North Port, now the largest city by population and land area in Sarasota County, also sees the need for the coalition, saying, “We need to be ambassadors for the region.”