homepage logo

Veterans Investment Zone forum set for Thursday

By Staff | Feb 27, 2013

A forum on Thursday will cover business and development opportunities surrounding the new Lee County Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center.

Hosted by the city’s Economic Development Office, the third Veterans Investment Zone – VIZ – Forum will run from 6-8 p.m. at the Cape Coral Yacht Club. It kicks off with registration and networking at 5:30 p.m.

The forum is free and no reservations are required to attend.

“We’re looking at showing some of the development potentials available in the VIZ,” Dana Brunett, director of the Economic Development Office, said.

“One new thing is the VA clinic is open and operational,” he said. “We’re actually getting people contacting us about locating there.”

While the forum is aimed at developers, real estate agents, commercial brokers and others in the industry, the public is welcome to attend.

“It’s always nice to know what’s going on in your community,” Brunett said.

“It’s an opportunity for them to find out what we’re doing, how we’re approaching the marketing,” he said.

The forum will feature a list of speakers, with time for questions.

“We’re trying to keep the program as tight as possible,” Brunett said.

During his time segment, Brunett will highlight some model projects within Florida that illustrate how a “medical campus” would ideally fit within the VIZ.

“I’ll talk a little about what some of the areas around the state have done,” he said.

Brunett will also touch on the development aspect potential, along with updates on local business incentives and leads the city has been pursuing.

“The activity has gone way up since the VA clinic opened,” he said, adding that people have been asking about space and the steps for acquiring it.

“So, that’s an encouraging sign,” Brunett said.

For incentives, the Economic Development Office offers customization.

“We can create an incentive program for each individual business,” he said. “We also have the county and state incentives too for the right businesses.”

Additional speakers will include Mark Alexander, the national director of medical office sale and leasebacks with Sperry Van Ness, and Michelle Maltese, who is a managing partner at Greener Earth Financial Solutions.

Alexander will present demographic data and trends that highlight the favorable market for medical business growth in the Cape, and Maltese will address financing solutions that can be used to stimulate development.

Leslie Schlotfeld, clinic administrator at the Veterans Affairs Healthcare Center, and Tracy Connelly, senior director of development for the Golisano Children’s Hospital and Lee Memorial Health System Foundation, will speak.

“The VA, they are going to give us an update on the new clinic,” Brunett said, adding that Schlotfeld is also expected to have some new figures available.

Connelly will showcase the HealthPark campus – a medical cluster of businesses – as a blueprint for development that could work in the VIZ.

“He’s talking about what they went through,” he said.

Rounding out the list of speakers is Ian and Melinda Mack, from the South Florida Canoe and Kayak Club. They will discuss the possibility of working with the VA clinic to introduce people, specifically veterans, to the two sports.

“Get them into canoeing and kayaking on a competitive level,” Brunett said, adding that it provides exercise and a possible option for rehabilitation.

“This is just an aspect that maybe we can build into, make a program,” he said.

They will also give an overview of the sport-related economic development opportunities in hosting races and the housing need for visiting competitors.

“We have a pretty wide ranging group,” Brunett said of the speakers.

The city hosts the Veterans Investment Zone Forum each year. Last year, the event drew more than 200 people. More than 300 showed up in 2011.

Organizers expect a turnout of between 150 and 200 on Thursday.

The Investment in America’s Veterans Foundation will have an exhibit from its Cape-based Southwest Florida Military Museum and Library on hand.

“That’s because of the veteran related events being in the VIZ,” Brunett said.

A number of forum sponsors will have booths set up.

The private sector and the public are encouraged to attend.

“The big thing is reaching out to investors,” he said, adding that it is an opportunity to get in early before the VIZ grows and prices increase.

Lights refreshments will be available, along with a cash bar.

The Cape Coral Yacht Club is at 5819 Driftwood Parkway.