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County to use Fort Myers to entice new business

By Staff | Apr 10, 2009

Despite Cape Coral’s greater numbers in land mass and population, Fort Myers is often thought of as its “big” brother.
As a city, Fort Myers is more widely known throughout Florida and the nation. At least that is the reasoning behind Lee County Economic Development Director Jim Moore’s decision to use the city across the river to better promote the county as a whole as a destination for businesses.
“Site selectors know Fort Myers better,” Moore explained Thursday to more than 100 members of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association.
Some in the audience took umbrage at the Cape playing second to Fort Myers.
“I have a very difficult time understanding the Fort Myers branding,” said Angela Davis, an eight-year Cape resident.
Moore countered that his overall approach would excite more interest in the county, and thus, the Cape.
“I’m not going to promote Cape Coral specifically. My job is to promote Lee County,” he said.
Cape Coral City Manager Terry Stewart, who also is the director of the Cape Coral Economic Development Office, said he also was uneasy at first about the prominence of Fort Myers in Moore’s new direction.
“I didn’t feel really good about it and I was really concerned,” he said.
By using the Fort Myers name to advertise online and elsewhere, a wider range of potential businesses will look at the area since the name is more recognizable than Lee County, which Moore called a generic name.
The bottom line is the most important thing, Stewart said.
“I’m not happy about it, but you have to follow the data and the facts,” he said.
Moore emphasized the importance of the Internet and a conspicuous placing in search engines like Google.
“You got to be in the first two pages (of search results) or you’re dead,” he said.
Another part of Moore’s plan is to focus on attracting smaller businesses whose success is not tied to the local or state economy.
As opposed to the many larger conglomerates that are imposing massive layoffs and downsizing schemes, there are smaller firms looking to expand, he said.
Attracting large companies is just not a realistic goal for a comparatively small market like Fort Myers, Moore said. Bigger markets like Palm Beach County have more incentives to offer large corporations.
“They are competing on levels that make it hard to bring those people here,” he said.
Moore’s office does, however, have a war chest of $25 million in unencumbered reserves with which to entice businesses to Lee County.
He cautioned that the money would go back into the general fund if it is not used.
“If we don’t spend that money, nothing happens. The money goes back into the pot,” Moore said.