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Some positives in economic climate, officials say

By Staff | May 2, 2009

Economic development could be seen by some as an oxymoron in Cape Coral in recent years considering the city’s rampant foreclosure numbers and rising unemployment rate, but some of those negative indicators are viewed as potential positives by Audie Lewis, a business recruitment specialist for the city’s Economic Development Office.
Speaking at a meeting for the Council for Progress, a business advocacy group in the Cape, Lewis said the countywide unemployment rate of 12.5 percent means employers interested in Cape Coral have a wide pool of workers from which to draw.
“From where I sit, I see that as available workforce,” Lewis said.
Lewis, ironically speaking on May Day, a day dedicated in most industrialized nations to celebrating workers’ rights, added that the clamor for work also will suppress wages.
“That way they can hire and they don’t have to extend their payrolls out to the max,” he said.
Cape Coral’s 22 percent commercial real estate vacancy also means there is room for businesses to expand in the city.
“I think business leaders need to start communicating at every level that the glass is half full,” Lewis said.
Council for Progress members, familiar with the Cape’s inherent handicaps in attracting business and capital (a pre-platted community relatively far from I-75 and the airport), wanted to know the overall focus of the EDO.
“We’ve had these great strategies, what have we done?” asked Joe Mazurkiewicz, executive director of the Council for Progress, referring to the lack of economic development generated in recent years.
Lewis pointed to the possibility of a large-scale swimming complex and convention center backed by USA Swimming coming to the north Cape, but admitted smaller businesses are the focus of the EDO.
Considering Cape Coral’s status as a draw for retirees and the increased need for medical care as the baby boomer generation reaches retirement age, health care-related industries and business are also a target for Lewis.
“We have an older adult population, and there is a correlation to aging and the need for medical care,” Lewis said.
Mazurkiewicz said he wanted to see a more comprehensive approach to attracting and keeping health care-related industries in Cape Coral, but added that his organization would like to aid the EDO as its private-sector equivalent.
“We want to help you,” Mazurkiewicz told Lewis.