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City Business Advocacy program ‘overwhelmed’

By Staff | Dec 6, 2010

The city’s Economic Development Office says its “conversion rate” for new businesses opening doors in the city is “38 percent”, a rate that Assistant Manager City Carl Schwing said would fail in school but is considered a success by EDO standards.
Schwing said during city council’s strategic planning session Thursday that the EDO had to rethink the way it approached handling potential business owners, especially for small businesses, of opening of which has been on an up-tick.
“We’ve had a difficult time measuring success at the Economic Development Office,” Schwing said. “We’re learning in Cape Coral that we need to pay more attention to small business … to grow that.”
Economic Development was the main thrust of conversation during city council’s morning strategic session.
Economic Development ideas were bandied about – including keeping Sunsplash open in the winter, expanding Sunsplash, and even building an amusement park – but the EDO took center stage as the driving force behind any economic boom that may or may not have occurred over that year.
DCD Director Paul Dixon said the city’s new business advocate program has been the most important addition to the EDO; Tammy Whitaker, the new “customer advocate”, has been nearly overwhelmed with potential new business owners seeking business advice.
“It’s not the number of cases she has, it’s the complexity of the problems,” Dixon said.
Whitaker likely will get some help in the future, as an in-house move could be made to provide some assistance.
Dixon said the EDO, while trying to foster economic growth, also is trying to provide education.
Dixon advises anyone interested in opening a business, big or small, to stop by the EDO before signing any lease.
“A lot of time people will come in and already have signed a lease. They’ll find they need to install a sprinkler system that costs an additional $50,000 dollars, when we could have found them a space a half mile a away that already has sprinklers,” Dixon said. “People need to come see us first.”
Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce President Mike Qaintance said city staff has done a good job of trying to attract business, despite the economic downturn, but doesn’t know if the “perception” of Cape Coral as unfriendly to the business community has changed completely.
“I think the staff is doing a great job of knocking down the barriers, but for that message to (reach) the business community its going to take a while,” he said. “The perception hasn’t changed yet …. but staff has been wonderful.”