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June 24, 2018


Southwest Florida

Rod Thomson | 4/9/2013

Bradenton/Manatee County

» Manatee County has adopted a strategy of thinking globally. The county is home to the expanding Port Manatee and is headquarters to several global companies — including Tropicana, IMG Academy and the recently relocated Feld Entertainment. IMG Academy attracts students from 80 countries, and its marketing efforts in effect serve to market the area as well. Manatee also has attracted Iriss, a U.K. company that moved its headquarters to Lakewood Ranch and will open this year. “We are aggressively marketing ourselves as a business destination globally,” says Sharon Hillstrom, president and CEO of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. The EDC recently replaced “Manatee” with “Bradenton” in its name because Bradenton had higher name recognition outside Florida and also has changed its slogan to “Think global. Think Bradenton” — reflecting its changed focus.

Business to Watch

» Lakewood Ranch: The economic engine powering Manatee County has shifted from Bradenton to the massive master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch. Last year, 573 homes were built there, up 47% from 2011, and a 272-unit apartment complex was fully leased in six months. Existing homes on the market fell from a high of 850 in 2007 to 89 in February — only nine of which were distressed sales. In the commercial sector, office vacancy rates have fallen sharply to 9.2%, less than half the average of Manatee and Sarasota counties. Since 2000, more than 50% of all of the office absorption has occurred in Lakewood Ranch. “We're leading the way out,” says Rex Jensen, president and CEO of Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, developers of Lakewood Ranch.

Manatee Population: 341,739
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.60%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.09% 5.66% 20.58% 32.89% 23.77%
Per Capita Income: $41,789


Fort Myers/Cape Coral/Lee County

» Lee County's economy, based largely on real estate, rose high and fell hard with the housing construction boom. The county seems to be finally coming out of the slump as construction and home sales across the board are increasing, says David Miller, executive director of the Chamber of Southwest Florida. “The pickup in home construction is essential for Lee County,” he says.

» The Chamber, the Horizon Council and other economic development groups are tapping in to the wealth of retired executives and visiting executives to push Lee as a relocation option. Miller says Southwest Florida International Airport and Florida Gulf Coast University are essential parts of the area's economic development strategy.

Business to Watch

» LeeSar: The hospital supply chain company built and opened a 197,000-sq.-ft. regional service center last year in Fort Myers that will enable it to expand and add service. The company was created in 1998 by Lee Memorial Health System to help buy and distribute supplies among the system's hospitals more efficiently. It now also serves the Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System, Leesburg Hospital, The Villages and Huntsville Hospital in Alabama. “Health care is going to be a leading economic growth area in our state,” says David Miller, executive director of the Chamber of Southwest Florida.

Lee Population: 659,475
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.87%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.12% 5.38% 21.60% 31.87% 25.02%
Per Capita Income: $43,587

Naples/Collier County

» Collier County development officials and businesses are creating a regional partnership that targets site selectors for companies looking to relocate — something that most regions of Florida already have put together. The move may be timely, as prospects are picking up in Collier as they are statewide. “There's action going on,” says Michael Reagen, president and CEO of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. At this point, however, the interest is coming mostly from site selectors, who don't disclose the companies they represent.

»  The University of Miami Health System's Bascom Palmer Eye Institute is building a facility in Naples that will house about 30 employees for clinical, surgical and research purposes and also serve as a training facility that could attract doctors from around the world.

» In Naples, residential and commercial renovations have become so hot that the city has hired another inspector to keep up with the load.

Business to Watch

» Barron Collier Cos.: After five years of struggles, the development company is emerging from the economic doldrums along with the rest of Collier County. Residential, retail and office holdings are all performing much better, and the company sees 2013 “as the best year in six years, easily,” says Blake Gable, president. In Naples, the company is negotiating to build a $25-million hotel and conference center, a surgery center, an assisted living facility and an acute care hospital. Near Ave Maria, in the eastern part of the county, Arthrex plans to open a 190,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in May or June. In addition, home building is taking off, and a new hospital is in the planning stages for eastern Collier.

Collier Population: 343,176
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 1.88%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.97% 5.50% 20.02% 30.91% 27.61%
Per Capita Income: $60,140


Charlotte County

» “We're posturing ourselves as the distribution hub for southwest Florida,” says Tom Patton, the county's economic development director. “We've got Collier and Lee to the south and Sarasota and Tampa Bay to the north. We're well-positioned for this.”

» Cheney Brothers, one of the largest food distributors in the South, is building a 270,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and distribution center at the Punta Gorda Interstate Airport Park. The Riviera Beach-based company will employ about 250 at the $25-million facility.

Charlotte Population: 165,483
Population Growth Rate (2009-13): 0.90%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
11.04% 4.06% 14.89% 33.36% 36.65%
Per Capita Income: $38,430

Tags: Southwest, Economic Yearbook

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