Business Florida 2021 - The Regions
Charlotte • Collier • Lee
Life & Leisure
Florida’s Southwest offers an abundance of activities and man-made attractions, including quaint shops and galleries, symphony orchestras, theaters, festivals and museums. Naples boasts a zoo that began 100 years ago as a botanical garden, and Fort Myers is home to the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, where the legendary Thomas Edison and his friend Henry Ford were snowbirds together in the 1920s and ‘30s. For sports fans, there’s MLB spring training baseball — the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers and the Tampa Bay Rays in Port Charlotte along with BMX bicycle racing and Pickleball in Punta Gorda (the first ever World Pickleball Championship took place here in 2019). And there’s plenty of natural beauty to enjoy here too: Ten Thousand Islands, Big Cypress Preserve, Everglades National Park, Sanibel Island and Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, plus miles and miles of coastal waters for fishing, swimming, boating, beachcombing and birdwatching.
Florida’s Southwest is a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity and here’s the proof. Three cities in the region have been named among the nation’s top 10 “entrepreneurial ecosystems” by the new think tank Heartland Forward. The honors go to Punta Gorda (No. 7); Naples (No. 8); and Cape Coral (No. 10) based on two factors influencing job growth: the community’s share of employment by small firms and the number of college-educated employees in those firms.
There’s Green Development too.Babcock Ranch, Southwest Florida’s solar-powered community planned for up to 50,000 residents and 19,500 homes continues to grow. Powered by a 440-acre solar plant producing close to 75 megawatts of electricity, Babcock Ranch is largely self-contained; it has its own school, downtown district dubbed Founders Square, Healthy Life Center with exercise facilities and medical offices, meeting rooms and a park with tennis, pickleball and basketball courts. Of its 18,000 available acres, half are set aside as greenways, parks and interconnected lakes. And coming in summer 2021: a 48,387-sq.-ft. Publix supermarket with a drive-through pharmacy to serve as the anchor for an 82,640-sq.-ft. shopping center. Construction is scheduled to begin in late 2020.
Looking to live a longer life? Head to Florida’s Southwest. Each of this region’s three counties boasts a life expectancy of 80 years or more, according to U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 Healthiest Communities rankings. And in the 2020 study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin, Collier County held steady as the second-healthiest county in Florida for the seventh consecutive year — and not by accident.
In 2015, the Collier County-based NCH Healthcare System, a network of hospitals, outpatient facilities and emergency medical centers throughout Southwest Florida, signed on to the Blue Zones Project, a nationwide initiative to promote health and wellness across the U.S., one community at a time. NCH employees signed a pledge to improve their health by incorporating better practices in their daily lives and, as word spread, members of the community at large began to join in too. In 2017, NCH became the first certified Blue Zone worksite in Florida with more than half of its workforce — about 2,150 employees — signing on to the program.