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Guest Opinion: Swords has answers for Lohlein’s questions

October 4, 2011
By MIKE SWORDS , Lehigh Acres Citizen

I want to thank Frank Lohlein for his inquiry published in The Lehigh Acres Citizen concerning the Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board. It is always encouraging when our local citizens demonstrate interest in their community.

You can get a membership application, information on the organization, tax return, email from the Lee County Economic Development Council and our request given to the Lee County Commissioners asking for funding.

I will respond to each of your questions and assumptions concerning the organization.

Response: Organizational Structure

The Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board has been an independent self-sustaining entity in our community for the past two years. Historically, the Economic Development Board was formerly organized under the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce as an Economic Development Committee.

On January 19, 2010, the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors affirmed the Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board bylaws thus making EDB an independent entity which has filed for its 501c(3) status. The EDB has been financially self-sustaining for more than two years.

Response: Open to the public and supported publicly

We are more than glad to make our organization open to the public. Our organization is supported by public officials, non-profits, Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce, Lehigh Community Services, Lehigh Regional Medical Center, the Lehigh Community Council, LACPC, Community Initiative, Lee County Volunteers In Medicine Clinic, and approximately 300 signatures of residents in the community.

How could anyone argue against the need for economic development in Lehigh Acres?

Response: Offshoot of Incorporation

I will have to be candid with Mr. Lohlein. This is not about incorporation. This is about getting the county to fulfill its governing responsibility to solve the magnitude of infrastructure needs, tens of thousands of septic and well systems dumping into our water aquifers, insufficient commercial base, and a myriad of road issues the county needs to address so that we can become a viable and sustainable community.

This all begins with economic development and the county enlisting its approximately 2,400 employees and our elected officials to intellectual capital to solve these issues.

The night of the last budget hearing was my 14-year-old son's birthday and we spent most of that day and night preparing for the hearing that night. After the hearing Commissioner Ray Judah came out where a group of us were talking, two in the group were doctors who moved out of Lehigh because they could not make a living.

My 14-year-old son approached Commissioner Judah and candidly told him that he and his friends do not see a future in Lehigh for them. If our youth are in despair of Lehigh providing professional and educational opportunities, where do you think this community will be in 20 years?

Response: How we finance paying our expenses

Our financial resources come from our members who join the organization. Our office space is located in the Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce and we pay $740 a month (one-half of the lease payment) for the Chamber of Commerce to Lehigh Shopping Center.

In fact, if Eugen and Conchita Borosch had not been very generous in helping the Chamber navigate through a these troubling economic times and the Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board had not been paying half of the costs for the leased space, I'm not sure we would have a Chamber of Commerce today.

Response: Salaries

The only employee we have is Edd Weiner and without telling his age I will describe him as a world famous architect for the past 40 years. And yes he is one of those rare birds in our community that just happens to be a Democrat. How did he get past the Republican Guard? I just happen to be a Republican and enjoy working with Edd.

think he comes from Mr. Lohlein's your neck of the woods (New York). Mr. Lohlein probably doesn't want to hear this but they are very much alike, in some ways.

That is probably why you like each other so much. Irrespective of the things that I may not agree with him on, I could never discount his passion for this community evidenced by his countless hours given to non-profit work. For example, president, Community Council, board member Chamber of Commerce, board member Lee County Volunteers In Medicine, board member LACPC, Architectural Review Committee, Immediate past president of Rotary Club, president of Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board, Lee Tran Committee and there are probably more that I don't know about.

And the only nonprofit that pays him, when we can is the Lehigh Acres Economic Development Board an whopping salary of $200 per week. When it costs $60 to fill your gas tank up we probably don't cover his gas money running back and forth to the county. Please tell me someone else with his credentials would work for so little.

Response: Finally

Mr. Lohlein, if economic development was occurring in Lehigh Acres we would not need an Economic Development Board in Lehigh. Those of us spending countless hours away from our businesses trying to keep the doors open and taking time away from our families would much rather be doing something else. The most valuable asset a person has is their time and once it is spent it cannot be recovered.

If Frank Lohlein has a viable solution and is willing to be part of fixing what is broke, please come forward with your time talent and treasure. Our meetings are the third Wednesday of every month at Lozannos at noon.



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