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Cape primed to become a business destination: Economic development efforts target job growth

By Staff | May 12, 2012

Those who attended Thursday’s monthly Cape Coral Construction Industry Association dinner meeting saw jars of wood chips at their tables.

The idea was to sniff the wood chips and get “the sweet smell of success” according to Heather Mazurkewicz, a sign the construction industry is on its way back.

Those who came out to the resort at Marina Village also got an update on economic development from two area economic development directors, who said with the continued development of existing businesses, Cape Coral seems primed to become a business destination.

Dana Brunett, Cape Coral Economic Development director, and Jim Moore, director of the Lee County Economic Development office, spoke to a packed house about the progress of the area’s “ED” in a 30-minute discussion moderated by Wayne Kirkwood, president of the Horizon Council.

The focus was on how to put Cape Coral on the map for site selectors as a place for businesses to come and grow and not as “ground zero” of the housing collapse.

“We want Cape Coral to be a place people would like to take advantage of,” Brunett said. “When they have an idea to relocate, we’re a known entity.”

Moore said that while bringing new companies into town is important, most new jobs are created by existing companies.

“It’s easier to expand business here than it is to relocate. We need to capitalize on that,” Moore said.

“You need to take care of what you have here. Cape Coral has 900 home-based businesses. We need to get them out of the home and into a storefront,” said Brunett, who added that 60 percent of workers leave town and that business pay only 8 percent of the city’s tax dollars.

When Kirkwood asked what site selectors thought of the city, both said the object is to show them Cape Coral has the edge.

“When selectors come here, you want them to return. It’s not easy because we’re not the only one inviting them,” Brunett said. “It’s worth the money to bring them in.”

Among the other topics discussed were the Florida Gulf Coast University connection, the trickle down from the proposed Veterans Administration clinic, the dormant Academic Village site and the need for education, government and businesses to work together.

But it was the work of the Horizon Council, Moore said, that really aided in making Lee County a business destination during a tough economy.

“We asked the BOCC to set aside $25 million to attract high-profile businesses and they approved it,” Moore said. “We screamed that Lee County is open for business.”

During the Q&A portion, Heather Mazurkewicz asked about the impact of impact fees and if they should be suspended.

“It’s a delicate balance, especially coming out of this economy. We’re playing catch up,” Brunett said. “We’ll keep singing the song of bringing business to Cape Coral.”

After the discussion, many were pleased by what they heard.

“It was good stuff. The professionals are in the right position to move the community forward,” said former mayor Joe Mazurkewicz. “We need support from elected officials. We can’t have the mayor take Academic Village and make it into a 20/20 (conservation property).”

“I think we’re all on the same page. We just have to work through things and work together,” said Cape Coral City Councilmember Marty McClain. “If we get together, we’re golden.”