City economic development manager addresses CCCIA
Right now, Cape Coral’s new Economic Development Office Manager Ricardo Noguera is in China in hope of building new business relationships that could bring millions of dollars of economic investment into the city.
On Thursday, just hours before taking off, Noguera was the guest speaker at the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association’s monthly dinner meeting at the Westin Resort.
Neither he, nor Mayor Joe Coviello, would comment on the trip, keeping their strategy close to the vest.
Noguera gave an overview on his first three months on the job, which as head of the EDO is to accentuate the positives of the city, not to dwell on the negatives, and to not only bring new business into town, but to help grow the ones that are already here to make Cape Coral a more prosperous community.
Noguera said there are some challenges the city faces, such as the lack of industrial land and Class A office space, its low density and proximity to I-75 and overall lack of an interstate-style highway and the fact that Fort Myers is a direct competitor, a more mature city and more easily able to attract retailers.
Another issue is there are areas that don’t have city water or sewer, particularly in the north, which hampers office and industrial development.
“We have only 8 percent of land devoted to commercial and industrial development and the goal is to get it to 20 percent. And one of the biggest challenges is the lack of industrial land,” Noguera said. “The lack of a highway perhaps ties into that.”
Noguera said the city could use some multi-story office space such as what Fort Lauderdale has, which has as many people living there, but is loaded with high rises, both residential and commercial. He said the city needs to go vertical.
Noguera said he has reached out to Costco, which has two locations in Fort Myers, for a location in Cape Coral.
“They said we’re already serving that market by coming over the bridge and coming to Fort Myers,” Noguera said. “I told them we were double the size of Fort Myers, but they were concerned about capitalization, that it would take away from their Fort Myers stores.”
Noguera said he has hired a consultant to see what nearby markets are doing so he can plan a recruitment strategy to bring in new business.
Cape Coral also has some unique advantages, such as opportunities downtown for parking and high-density or mixed-use development, economic incentives for new and expanding businesses hiring local workers, Pine Island Road, which has funneled office and retail and a fast-growing demographic of younger workers in the eighth-largest city in the state and one of the fastest growing in the nation.
“We’re going after people under the age of 35 and going after industries that will create jobs so they can stay here in the Cape,” Noguera said. “That Pine Island corridor is where all the national retail and office space will be occupied.”
Among the new businesses coming in are a new Nissan dealership and two new Aldi supermarkets, one at Pine Island and Chiquita and the other at the Coralwood Mall. Texas Tony’s restaurant has opened, as has a Panera Bread in the South Cape.
Noguera said taking care of their own is job one. Businesses like Mercola Vitamin, Wicked Dolphin, Nor-Tech and Bones Coffee are among the companies looking to expand their business, with most of them paying good salaries and hiring young millennials.
Noguera said the strategy of hiring semi-retired people from the Midwest has to end, and that millennials with skills are taking over, and jobs for them must come here, one way or the other. That is why he is going up the I-75 corridor to get companies to consider Cape Coral.
“We’re not trying to poach these companies from these towns, but get them to expand. We have the folks who moved down here whose children are here now, so we’re going after those companies,” Noguera said.