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Economic Development to take a new approach

By Staff | Sep 5, 2019

Cape Coral’s Economic Development manager is taking what he calls an “outside the box” look at how to promote development opportunities in the city.

Ricardo Noguera, the city’s top business recruiter that took the helm early in 2019, said he’s looking to attract businesses to the Cape that can provide good-paying jobs with a focus on millennials.

“We’re changing how people view us,” Noguera said. “We’re much more than a retirement community.”

Noguera said his philosophy is based on certain factors the occur in the Cape, including what the desire and will of city leadership is, what land is available for development and what is the market calling for not only locally, but state-wide and nationally, he said.

Noguera is in charge of corralling businesses to the Cape, to have them grow, and, ideally, stay.

He’s learned that the city is mostly single family housing, and that approximately 8 percent of land is zoned commercial and industrial, “making it a challenge to expand commercial/industrial inventory.”

Other challenges Noguera sees include the distance from I-75, as well as the lack of utilities to support developments along the western portion of Pine Island Road and along Burnt Store Road.

On the flip side, he sees opportunities in the Cape to promote infill, commercial, industrial and mixed-use development.

Noguera invasions these developments on city-owned properties, such as the Zemel property in the northeast. There are also 100-plus acre sites along Del Prado Boulevard and Burnt Store Road that “offer ample space to fill a need for office and light industrial where current vacancy rates run in the single digits.”

Another place of interest for the economic development manager is the South Cape, as it “has an enormous opportunity to evolve into a walkable community with ‘downtown’ housing.”

Putting an emphasis on sturdy jobs for a younger demographic is what Noguera feels can elevate Cape Coral.

“We are rapidly changing form a retirement community to a workforce market with the median age near 42,” Noguera said. “Moving ahead, the EDO will focus on a marketing approach that involves travel to conferences, trade shows, and on site visits to developers and end users throughout the U.S. The goal is to build out less developed sites and bring industry and good-paying jobs to the Cape with an emphasis on millennials. I look forward to this challenge.”

For instance, Noguera, along with two associates from the city, will be traveling to Boston to attend a MedTech conference in hopes to have the company — which produces medical instruments — expand to Cape Coral.

These “recruiting” trips aim to connect with developers and businesses that Noguera feels can be a match for the city, and said he’s already made strides doing so.

“We want companies that can grow here,” Noguera said. “We want to attract those markets to come here.”

Noguera doesn’t just want the developers, businesses and millennials to come to the Cape, he wants them to stay and feel at home.

“We want to create an environment where young people feel at ease,” Noguera said. “We don’t want them to get bored. We want this to be a place they want to be.”

What he hears around the community, he said, are people are asking him, “Can you bring in good jobs for my son or grandson?”

He has spent his time looking at surrounding cities such as Tampa, Naples, Fort Myers, Orlando and more, to see what he can take from each area.

Noguera has also met with brokers and developers in the Cape to get a feel for what they think are the moves that need to be made.

“We have to find the driving forces from a development standpoint,” Noguera said. “What are our different niches?”

Noguera said companies like MedTech “fit our DNA more so. We want jobs that don’t acquire an advanced degree.”

Noguera said he is still working from the same EDO budget, but that he has restructured and redesigned it to fit the direction of the future.

There is no shortage of places Noguera is looking to pool from, whether that be the Midwest in places like Minnesota and Wisconsin, the West Coast such as Arizona and California and even Germany.

“We will do the best we can,” Noguera said.

-Connect with this reporter on Twitter: @haddad_cj