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June 20, 2018

Community Portrait


| 2/1/2011

Why I Live Here

Erik Sander

» "I can go practically anywhere in this great country, but I choose to live in Gainesville because this community challenges and excites me every day. Gainesville offers everything from culture and the arts to sports of all kinds; and the breadth and depth of research and innovation never fail to amaze me. There's something special about living in a forward-looking city where innovation, whether through technology or the arts, is in the water and the air. I see the future being made every day through the students and technologies that are developed in Gainesville — and that keeps me young every day.

Erik Sander
Director of industry programs
University of Florida College of Engineering

Lola Haskins

» "I'm a poet and a non-fiction writer. Since I grew up near San Francisco, you might think I'd find Gainesville limited. I don't. We have a depth of easily accessible resources that belie our size, including visual art, music, dance and theater. I've seen plays that I saw in New York that I thought were better here. And I love the diversity of our citizens and the fact that they include smart people of every stripe. Anything you might want to learn, you can find someone to teach it to you. But what really ices Gainesville for me is its access to protected lands like San Felasco Hammock or Paynes Prairie and the chance to kayak the myriad lakes, rivers and salt marshes within easy driving distance. Sure, we're growing faster than I wish we were, and sure, there's football, but the town seems to be holding its own. And as long as we go on protecting our lucky beauty — and happily, there are enough of us here to do that — Gainesville will be a great place to live.

Lola Haskins

» "In my line of work (author, consultant, professional speaker) I could literally live anywhere in the world, but my wife and I absolutely love this town and are extremely happy and proud to call Gainesville home. We have everything any big town has to offer: A wonderful arts community, great schools, world-class sports, superb dining and incredible outdoor recreation — all infused with the energy of one of the most intellectually vibrant and innovative cities I have ever been in. The other thing I love about Gainesville is that it is easy to get involved and make a difference. I used to run a Rockefeller Foundation in South Florida and could not get the folks from the chamber to even return my calls, but here in Gainesville I have found every sector of the community to be welcoming and inclusive. And the Chamber returns my calls very promptly!"

John Spence
Business consultant and author of the business books
"Excellence by Design" and "Awesomely Simple"

View from a Competitor

Florida Trend asked an economic development professional in another Florida market to assess anonymously the city's strength and weaknesses.

Strengths: "Gainesville has made tremendous strides as a legitimate competitor in the business recruitment and development game. Formerly known as the "Peoples' Republic of Alachua County" among site selectors and business recruiters, the community shed its disdain for economic growth and provides a far more welcoming, pro-business posture.

The state's flagship university, UF is a world-class academic and research institution, fueling tremendous advances in biotechnology, life sciences and the commercialization of many related technologies. Business leaders have done much to foster the "creative class" culture. There has been significant recognition by "new age" economic guru Richard Florida about Gainesville nurturing the educational, social and technological interfaces that make it attractive to entrepreneurs and tech-based businesses.

Added to this is the strikingly beautiful natural environment surrounding Alachua County, living up to the phrase ‘Florida's Eden.' City leaders have also done much to plan for the infrastructure and livability of the community in a very visually appealing manner."

Weaknesses: "Stripping away the largesse of UF, its students and the epic economic impact of the community associated with its presence, you have a small community with a less-than-diversified business base. Chronic poverty rates and limited workforce educational skill-sets among the population have raised questions about long-term viability for growth in industries outside technologies promoted by the university and other business advocacy groups.

Expanding and improving air service at the Gainesville Regional Airport will also need to be explored further if the community desires further diversification of its economy and the attraction of national and international technology-based businesses."

Tags: Northeast

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Florida Trend Video Pick

Wild Willy's adding two go-kart tracks, bumper boats and more
Wild Willy's adding two go-kart tracks, bumper boats and more

New attractions are coming soon to Wild Willy's Adventure Zone on Okaloosa Island. Crews have already put down two 1,000-foot go-kart tracks as part of an expansion that will include bumper boats, a chipping range, climbing wall, kiddie rides and more miniature golf.

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