Business Florida 2013 - The Regions
Fort Myers, Naples, Port Charlote, Punta Gorda
QUALITY OF LIFE
Beach meets boardroom
Southwest Florida is home to miles of sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and the superb recreational opportunities that go along with easy ocean access, such as snorkeling, kayaking and parasailing. Average temperatures here range from 83° F in summer to 66° F in winter; locals claim 360 days of sunshine each year. Arts and culture are huge here too. In fact, amenities like a philharmonic orchestra with its own state-of-the-art concert hall and a thriving arts community are among the reasons Naples earned national acclaim in 2012: the No. 2 spot on Coastal Living’s list of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns,” and No. 9 among Smithsonian magazine’s “20 Best Small Towns in America.”
Major League investment
Lee County has been spring training home to the Boston Red Sox since 1993, so it came as no surprise that when the team determined its need for a new and improved spring training facility, Fort Myers got the nod. JetBlue Park, part of a complete training and development facility called Fenway South, opened in March 2012. The stadium, which seats more than 10,000 fans, includes a 37-foot “Green Monster” wall in left field and a restored version of the manual scoreboard that was housed at Boston’s Fenway Park for almost 30 years. And just up the road at Port Charlotte, the Tampa Bay Rays train at their newly remodeled Charlotte Sports Park.
Downtown Fort Myers is sitting pretty these days thanks to a $60-million renovation — underground utilities, brick roads, new streetlights and new street signs. Since completion of the four-year project, about 20 new businesses have moved in, including a Parisian-style bakery, gelato shop, several restaurants and boutiques, and the downtown business district is once again a destination for residents and tourists alike.
Cheney Brothers Inc. will build a 250,000-sq.-ft. food distribution center — its fourth such Florida-based facility — near Punta Gorda Airport and generate more than 300 new jobs in the process. Slated for completion in 2013, the new Cheney Brothers site will be the first in Florida to take advantage of a new discounted electric service rate program offered by Florida Power & Light, the state’s largest utility, to encourage economic development. Qualified businesses must add at least 350 kilowatts of new load and create at least 10 new jobs (25 jobs after June 1, 2013) per 350 kilowatts of added load.
Chico’s FAS Inc., a specialty retailer of private-branded women’s clothing, accessories and gifts, broke ground in early 2012 on a new 146,000-sq.-ft. corporate headquarters building in Fort Myers. A Southwest Florida fixture since 1983, Chico’s has grown from a single shop on Sanibel Island to more than 600 Chico’s boutiques and 83 outlets nationwide. The expansion will add 150 new jobs to the firm’s existing headquarters staff of 1,250.