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Southwest - Yearbook

Throughout the region, economic developers are looking to broaden their employment bases. Sarasota County is diversifying as well but also is trying to capitalize on a demographic base heavy with affluent retirees.

Southwest Florida


> Promote and grow the region's nascent film and entertainment industry.

> Expand export opportunities for local companies and attract investment for foreign companies seeking markets in the U.S.

> Promote initiatives that complement the region (including its older population base), such as its Institute for the Ages, medical tourism and a creativity institute.

> Grow businesses and create jobs.

MSA DEC. 2010 DEC 2009 % Change Jobless Rate
Bradenton/ Sarasota/ North Port 274,768 272,225 +0.9% 11.6%
Cape Coral/ Fort Myers 240,286 240,076 NC 12.5%
Naples/ Marco Island 128,248 127,048 +0.9% 11.5%
Punta Gorda 60,389 59,809 +1.0% 12.0%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes Single-family, existing-home sales by Realtors
MSA Jan. 2011 Sales 1-Year Change Jan. 2011 Price 1-Year Change
Fort Myers/ Cape Coral
1,072 -4% $88,500 -3%
Punta Gorda
260 +33% $86,300 -15%
Sarasota/ Bradenton 742 +12% $136,300 -13%
Source: Florida Realtors

Sarasota Population: 374,809
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.40%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
13.2% 4.6%
17.9% 33.5% 30.8%
Per Capita Income: $53,723

Sarasota Retirees
Sean Snaith, director of the Institute for Economic Competitiveness at the University of Central Florida, told Sarasota business leaders at the 2011 Economic Outlook luncheon that because Sarasota tends to attract a "more affluent retiree who's not as dependent on the value of their home up in Jersey" that Sarasota tends to stay "out ahead" of a lot of other regions as the economy slowly recovers. [Photo: Bill Speer]


batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: Jackson Laboratory — Jackson Laboratory, a Maine-based genetics research organization, is partnering with the University of South Florida, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System, Sarasota County and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation to build a 120,000-sq.-ft. facility. Sarasota County administrator Jim Ley says the development could generate as many as 2,200 jobs by 2030. If voters approve the use of county funds, construction could begin within the year. Jackson Lab's previous attempt to build a facility in Collier County was rebuffed because many objected to its high price tag.

Bo Martinsen and Anne-Marie Chalmers
Bo Martinsen and Anne-Marie Chalmers, both doctors, founded Ambo Foods in Venice, which makes the Omega Cookie. [Photo: Ambo Foods]

> EMERGING STAR: Ambo Foods — Dr. Bo Martinsen and Dr. Anne-Marie Chalmers, husband-and-wife co-founders of Ambo Foods in Venice, created Omega Cookie, which contains the equivalent of seven capsules worth of omega-3 fish oil, along with five grams of fiber and a dose of vitamin D and calcium. "We get fish oil from Norway, oats from Montana, orange juice from Florida, and the product is made in our factory in Sarasota," says Martinsen. Ambo Foods has increased revenue 50% since introducing Omega Cookie in 2009. The cookies — one box of 15 costs $36.75 — are sold online and at the Sarasota Farmers Market.

> HEAVY HITTER: PGT Industries — In 2003, the North Venice door and window manufacturer opened a facility in Salisbury, N.C. This year, the company decided to close that plant and consolidate its operations at its Venice plant. The consolidation brings 300 jobs to Sarasota County and will create 100 more over the next five years. PGT ranked 88th in Florida Trend's list of top public companies in the state, with $166 million of revenue.

playersImpact Players

Laura Williams
Laura Williams

> Laura Williams, director, Florida operations for the Baltimore Orioles — Last year, their first season at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, the Orioles posted the highest spring training attendance in their franchise history, with 102,219 fans attending 15 games. Laura Williams, who oversaw the team's move from Fort Lauderdale to Sarasota and the $24-million renovation of Ed Smith stadium, anticipates even higher attendance this year.

Bradley Battersby
Bradley Battersby

> Bradley Battersby, department head, Ringling College of Art and Design's digital filmmaking program — Bradley Battersby aims to make Ringling's new digital filmmaking program one of the nation's top film schools. A film director, screenwriter, producer and cinematographer, Battersby has brought professionals such as director Werner Herzog and Amy Robinson (producer of the Meryl Streep film "Julie & Julia") to Sarasota to work with his students. The visiting guest faculty "do everything from screenings to Q&As to one-on-one workshops, and that's been an incredible success," says Battersby. He's also expanded the program's writing component, started the school's first production design courses for film and made sure students have the proper equipment at their disposal. Ringling (and the film program) recently got a boost in the form of a $1.75-million county grant to build and equip a 3,000-sq.-ft., state-of-the-art film and television post-production facility on campus.

> R. Michael Smith, president, L-3 Aviation Recorders — The Sarasota-based division of defense contracting giant L-3 Communications — which employs about 250 locally — recently named R. Michael Smith president. The company is the world's leading manufacturer of aerospace flight data and cockpit crash-protected recorders. The FAA recently approved a lightweight data recorder manufactured by L-3.

bradenton / Manatee County

The proposed $6.2-million Riverwalk would include a family "fun zone." [Rendering: Manatee Chamber of Commerce]

Manatee Population: 331,185
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.34%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.7% 5.3%
21.5% 32.9% 22.7%
Per Capita Income: $39,022

The economic development incentive grant program that the county implemented two years ago has helped 32 companies that plan to create or retain 2,844 local jobs, with an average wage of $48,278. "That's an encouraging milestone in such a tough economic climate," says Eric Basinger, executive director of the Economic Development Council of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. Basinger predicts continued growth in several areas, including clean energy, medical equipment manufacturing and the sports performance industry.

Downtown Bradenton businesses, meanwhile, are hoping to get a boost from a proposed city Riverwalk, which would include an interactive fountain and plaza, a nature-based play sculpture, a "biopond" and a "tidal discovery marsh."


Collier Population: 335,721
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.73%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
5.1% 20.1% 30.3% 27.4%
Per Capita Income: $56,412


> Promote international business development among local businesses.

> Focus on industry cluster development in clean tech, health and life sciences, and computer and software services.

> Foster entrepreneurship.

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: Animal Specialty Hospital of Florida — Michelle Carnes and her business partners opened their facility, the largest and most technologically advanced animal specialty hospital in southwest Florida, in March. The hospital has board-certified specialists — including oncologists and neurologists/neurosurgeons — on call 24 hours a day for consultations. The veterinary hospital plans to employ at least 28 during its first three years with an average wage of $55,000.

> EMERGING STAR: Haynes Corp. — A precision parts manufacturer that has been operating in Collier County since 1989, Haynes is in the midst of an expansion that will add at least 20 jobs. R. Scott Dixon, the company's purchasing manager, says the company decided to consolidate all of its manufacturing in Florida because of the "extremely high cost of doing business in California."

> HEAVY HITTER: Arthrex — A Naples-based manufacturer of medical devices for orthopedic surgery, Arthrex recently acquired the joint-replacement assets of California-based Cardo Medical. The company is also expanding its medical education facilities. Founded in 1981, Arthrex employs 1,000 in the Naples area and fought the county's efforts to spend $130 million to try to attract Jackson Lab, a Maine-based non-profit genetics research institute. Arthrex owner Reinhold Schmieding says the proposed deal amounted to "inequality and bias in funding single enterprise corporate welfare."

playersImpact Players

> Al Zichella, vice president of construction/development services, KD Merick and Co. of Naples — A longtime Naples builder, Al Zichella is president of Florida Home Builders Association. He says the biggest stumbling blocks for builders are state regulations, impact fees and federal banking regulations that have made it difficult to obtain capital.

Rowan Samuel

> Rowan Samuel, co-founder, Naples International Film Festival — Ticket sales were up 32%, and the festival attracted more than 80 sponsors last year, its second season. Rowan Samuel, who worked for 20 years in advertising before recently transitioning to real estate, says the event is helping the Naples business community, accounting for about $3 million in economic impact in 2009-10.

> Mayela Rosales, executive vice president, Media Vista Group — Since moving to Naples 15 years ago, Mayela Rosales, creator and host of the area's first Hispanic television show, "D'Latinos al Dia," and her husband, Orlando, have built a bustling Hispanic media empire. Media Vista Group also produces the monthly lifestyle magazine D'Latinos. Rosales is also executive vice president of Azteca America SWFL.

Fort Myers/ Cape Coral/Lee County

Algenol Biofuels CEO Paul Woods
Recent expansions include Algenol Biofuels — CEO Paul Woods (above) late last year announced plans to build a pilot-scale Integrated Bio-Refinery in Lee County — and Gannett Co., which announced plans to build a centralized online advertising operations department that will create 35 jobs. "If you look at the unemployment rate, we have a lot of work to do, but from our perspective, we're really trying to focus on bringing in high-value, high-wage, diverse industries," says Jennifer Berg, marketing and communications director for Lee County's Economic Development Office. [Photo: Brian Tietz]

Lee Population: 610,405
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.06%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
5.2% 22.2% 32.5% 22.9%
Per Capita Income: $39,533


> Continue efforts to diversify the economy through the recruitment of businesses and the expansion of existing firms.

> Promote the county's $25-million incentives program and other longstanding programs, to attract high-wage industries.

> Support the region's tourism industry.

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: VR Laboratories — A new natural, FDA-approved botanical pharmaceutical company, VR received $5 million in financial incentives to build its headquarters in Lee County. The company plans to create 208 jobs over the next five years with an average wage of $66,850. Reginald Steele, VR's executive chairman, was previously an executive vice president with GNC.

> EMERGING STAR: CallMiner — Fort Myers-based speech analytics firm CallMiner received $4 million in private venture capital and $3 million more from the Florida Growth Fund to help it expand. The company provides high-tech speech analytics software called Eureka that processes and analyzes call center recordings to extract useful information.

21st Century Oncology
21st Century Oncology
[Photo: 21st Century Oncology]
The company plans to grow its workforce by nearly 150% over the next five years, with the majority of new employees based in Florida.

> HEAVY HITTER: 21st Century Oncology — 21st Century is beefing up its presence with the transfer of billing and collections facilities from another state. The Fort Myers-based company, which operates nearly 100 radiation therapy centers across the United States, received $300,000 from the county. The move will bring the company's total local headcount to close to 400 employees.

playersImpact Players

> Steve Tirey, director of industry partnerships and graduate placement, Southwest Florida College — The former president and CEO of the Chamber of Southwest Florida will be in charge of the college's graduate placement activities with a focus on industry partnerships. He'll also work on brand building and governmental affairs for the school.

> Arun Maheshwari, general partner, venture capital firm RisingSun Ventures — The Indian IT industry magnate who helped pioneer that nation's outsourcing industry, and his son, Amit Maheshwari, have been investing heavily in distressed real estate since moving to the Fort Myers area several years ago. Recent purchases include a 40,000-sq.-ft. office complex on Cleveland Avenue — which the Maheshwaris remodeled in part with a $50,000 grant from the city of Fort Myers — and two motels.

charlotte County

Charlotte County Population: 162,974
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.90%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
4.2% 15.2% 34.0% 34.9%
Per Capita Income: $35,389

Local economic developers have been working to find a developer for the county's Murdock Village property, which has been vacant since 2003. One promising development: The county is willing to give 137 acres at Murdock Village to a local developer in exchange for about 30 acres at Enterprise Charlotte Airport Park near Punta Gorda Airport. According to news reports, Wilderness Resorts, which operates resorts in Wisconsin and Tennessee, has expressed interest in developing a $110-million water park resort on the property if it can get the appropriate financing. Kay Tracy, interim director of the Charlotte County Economic Development Office, says the acreage would "add another tool to our economic development toolbox," whereby the county could offer that land as an incentive in exchange for job creation and a tax base. "Instead of just saying, here's some money, we'd say, we have county property, and we can convey that property if you qualify."


Hendry Population: 40,211
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.51%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
24.3% 7.8%
30.1% 26.2% 11.5%
Per Capita Income: $27,249

Glades Population: 11,274
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.69%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
13.8% 5.7%
27.1% 31.4% 22.1%
Per Capita Income: $25,710

Lykes-Duda is moving forward with plans to develop a South Florida International Logistics Center. Meanwhile, the Federal Aviation Administration preliminarily accepted Hendry County's AirGlades Airport to participate in a privatization pilot program. Officials hope to transform the airport into a cargo hub.

DeSoto / Highlands / Hardee Counties

DeSoto Population: 36,593
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.05%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
6.2% 31.2% 26.1% 18.3%
Per Capita Income: $22,889

Highlands Population: 103,164
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.16%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
5.0% 19.2% 28.8% 31.3%
Per Capita Income: $27,768

Hardee Population: 30,154
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.13%
Population by Age:
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
6.4% 30.5% 25.9% 13.0%
Per Capita Income: $22,429

In February, University of South Florida Polytechnic opened the "Blue Sky Wauchula" facility in Hardee County. The center serves as both an academia outreach center, where middle and high school students can prepare and plan for college, trade school or the military, and as a business development center. USF Polytechnic operates a similar facility, the Student Mentoring and College Planning program, in Sebring.