Economic yearbook 2010
Market trends offer grounds for 'some renewed optimism.'
“What we’re sensing generally from our businesses is some renewed optimism,” says Kathy Baylis, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County. Businesses are “starting to pick up customers, sales are increasing and the general feeling is that a turnaround is occurring — not at the rapid pace we’ve seen in prior times, but there is sort of a slow, gradual feeling that things are turning around.”
Several area businesses have benefited from $24 million worth of Economic Recovery Zone Facility bonds that were allocated to Sarasota County through last year’s federal stimulus package.
» IntegraClick, a local internet marketing company, used $8 million worth of the low-interest, tax-exempt bonds to fund the acquisition of a new 12-acre campus.
» Sharky’s on the Pier, a popular waterfront eatery in Venice, received recovery zone financing to help pay for a $4.2-million renovation.
» Sarasota-based Finergy Development is borrowing $10.4 million through the bond program for a 100-room Hilton Garden Inn Hotel at U.S. 41 and Albee Road in Nokomis.
But complications remain. Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration, told local business leaders at a 2010 Economic Outlook luncheon in January that while previous recessions were always cushioned by a rapid influx of growth, migration to the state has slowed. The once-reliable construction and tourism industries, meanwhile, are still off their marks.
Baylis says the EDC is more aggressively helping companies to take advantage of international business opportunities and is equally focused on luring companies from cities like Baltimore, for example, which already have links to Sarasota. In Baltimore’s case, the Baltimore Orioles have their spring training home at Sarasota’s Ed Smith Stadium.
Businesses to Watch
» Osprey Biotechnics, which manufactures beneficial bacteria for plant and animal health, environmental restoration and pollution prevention, did well last year and is doubling the size of its plant to begin manufacturing fungi used in making food, antibiotics, detergents and also as biological agents to control weeds and insects. The company also plans to double its workforce over the next three years.
» North Venice-based Tervis Tumbler, which has been producing cups and mugs since 1946, posted a 40% revenue gain last year. The company hired 77 employees in 2009, bringing its total head count to 287. The company plans to add retail locations.
People to Watch
» Rob Campbell, a 58-year-old former executive for Apple and Microsoft, is leading a new Sarasota-based startup called Voalté. The company’s first product, the Voalté One system, is a software application that allows nurses, doctors and other point-of-care workers at hospitals to receive all of their voice, alarm and text messages on their iPhones. Piloted at Sarasota Memorial Hospital, the program is now being used by hospitals as far away as California.
» In 2009, Sarasota angel investor and entrepreneur Rich Swier Jr. and Matt Orr, founder of ThisWeekInSarasota.com, launched a Sarasota-based business incubator called The HuB. In addition to fostering startups, The HuB is an “economic engine with social purpose,” says Swier. The group is working with local arts organizations to find ways to leverage social media to reach a younger audience.