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Economy emerges as Cape Council’s top objective

By Staff | Dec 12, 2009

As city council went about making its lists, examining the city’s strengths and weaknesses, it became apparent members believed Cape Coral had far more hurdles to overcome than it had advantages already at its disposal.
Using the acronym SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — council members compartmentalized their visions for Cape Coral during a strategic planning session on Friday.
Economic development became their greatest concern, leading the charge as the No. 1 item on their strategic objectives list.
“We have to kick start economic development,” said Marty McClain. “That’s our duty to every citizen in this city.”
Some ideas thrown around to help foster the desired economic results include tax free incentives, building a restaurant in North Jaycee Park, developing a branding strategy, creating another CRA district, and pursuing both the swim center and the ice rink/hotel plaza.
Interim City Manager Carl Schwing mentioned the in-development VA Clinic in North Cape as an example of the type of project that would foster economic growth.
“We’ve got people sniffing around already who want to be out there,” Schwing said of ancillary businesses that could spring up around the clinic.
The question was also broached as to whether council should be setting short- or long-term goals, by pleasing existing residents or attracting new families.
As the strategic objectives list began to take shape, council decided to focus on a 12 – 18 month time frame, and only on ideas they could directly affect.
If they were to accomplish that feat, they seemed to think things would take care of themselves.
“You have to find a way to balance so we have both young and old here in the city,” Pete Brandt said.
The strategic objective list broke down a such: From most to least important, economic development, budget issues, utilities, public safety, transportation, parks and recreation and communication with the public.
Councilman Kevin McGrail thought there were opportunities in parks and recreation department for public/private partnerships.
He said if corporate sponsors could be found for some of the city’s parks, it could alleviate some of the budget problems the department faced this year.
“There’s a fair amount of successful businesses in the community … there’s an opportunity there to keep our level of service without raising our fees,” McGrail said. “Look at Red, White & BOOM. We had a corporate sponsor step in and save the day.”
Whether the meeting was a success will not be known until the 12 – 18 month time frame has come, or gone, but one council member thought the meeting was, at the least, productive.
The fact that the list of the city’s weaknesses was longer than city’s strengths didn’t affect Marty McClain negatively.
“Everything I think is achievable, or at least attainable,” McClain said. “You learn by those weaknesses … and I’m hoping that all of us take heed.”
City staff is planning to condense all of the meeting’s information for council members, as well as setting a timetable to accomplish these goals.
That was another point of contention: what metrics do council use to know they’re moving in the direction they want to go?
“Everything we come up with is direction, but how do you know when you’ve arrived?” Carl Schwing asked.