Aided by a new marketing campaign, Lee County officials plan to expand outreach efforts this year to increase economic development and support existing businesses.
Jim Moore, the executive director of the Fort Myers Regional Partnership, spoke Friday at the Horizon Council's annual meeting at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers. Moore discussed the vision for the new year and highlights from the past 20 years.
The council is a public-private organization that advises the Lee County Commission on economic development issues. It was established in 1991.
"We're excited because we think the best is yet to come," Moore said.
The Fort Myers Regional Partnership, which is Lee County's Economic Development Office, intends to expand outreach efforts to recruit new businesses, as well as focus on retentions and the expansion of existing businesses.
"We're going to press forward with the things that work and modify the things that didn't work," Moore said.
Expanding on communications and further developing an existing business survey to make it more beneficial for local companies are a few things that the county and the economic development task forces have in the pipeline.
Enhancing the county's presence in social media is another project.
"Eighty percent of first contacts come through the Internet," Moore said.
Television commercials with local business heads offering up testimonials for why they chose Lee County as their development designation, as well as print advertising and billboards, are part of the plan to share with those outside of Lee County what the area has to offer.
Moore also cited hard sales efforts, including phone calls and mailings.
Working in-hand with future efforts will be the new in-market campaign that the Fort Myers Regional Partnership launched in 2010. The campaign aims to engage local companies to appeal to those who are spending time in the area to considering expanding or opening their business here.
The theme of the campaign is "Together we mean business."
"This is a viable strategy," Moore said.
"We have a result and there's more in the hopper," he added.
During his presentation, Moore covered where the county was 20 years ago. The population and air passenger traffic was half of what it is today, while K-12 enrollment countywide has almost doubled. The Midpoint Bridge was being built and Daniels Road was being widened.
He said that over the years, the Horizon Council has played a large part in developing the county. The group set the vision for Lee County and started an ombudsman program to help businesses deal with problems in the area.
"They were instrumental in the adoption of the economic development element in the comprehensive plan," Moore said.
The council recommended streamlining the permitting process to make it easier for businesses and it came up with programs like one for minorities and woman in business, an economic development incentive program and a diversification task force, among others.
Moore presented to the audience a list of businesses for which the council has made a difference.
"It's an exciting time for us," he said. "I know the economy's difficult, but there's a lot of brightness in our future."
The Horizon Council has up to 80 members represented by five cities, 10 chambers of commerce, 16 economic development and trade organizations, and 14 community, business and education organizations, according to the group's website.
The remaining serve as officers and at-large members.
The mission of the council is to work toward improving the business environment in Lee County, to retain and encourage the expansion of existing businesses, and to attract new and diversified employment to the area.
For more information, visit: www.fortmyersregionalpartnership.com.