Other highlights of local leaders rowing together to diversify and expand the local economy in Lee and Collier counties include:
* The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and its partnerships with regional, state, and national organizations focus on business retention, expansion, attraction, talent development, and relocation. The Chamber collaborates with government agencies, foundations, schools, and businesses on a number of vital fronts.
* Both counties have economic development offices that oversee incentive programs to draw in new companies, encourage local business expansions, and foster entrepreneurship. Cape Coral is the only city—and the largest—in Southwest Florida with a dedicated economic development department.
* The Collier County Office of Business and Economic Development manages two accelerators: the Naples Accelerator for local startups and international companies seeking a professional place for a “soft-landing” entrée in Southwest Florida and the Florida Culinary Accelerator at Immokalee Regional Airport.
* The Lee County Economic Development Office is focused on bolstering the communities North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard corridor.
* Professionals and rising entrepreneurs are getting a deeper understanding of Southwest Florida’s greatest challenges and opportunities to hone their community leadership skills. Selected participants take part in a proactive series of retreats, seminars, and site visits to learn about government agencies, law enforcement, healthcare, social services, and the environment. These popular, long-running programs—such as Leadership Lee County and Leadership Collier—are offered through local Chamber of Commerce organizations. Many participants embrace an issue or cause to address, remain engaged through alumni groups, and go on to serve on local nonprofit boards and in elected positions.
* A new one-cent sales tax increase in Collier County will raise approximately $490 million for a variety of infrastructure projects that will enhance the quality of life in the Naples by expediting road and parks projects, expanding mental health and addiction services, and building a workforce training space.
* Since 1991, the public-private Horizon Council has advised the Lee County Board of Commissioners on economic development issues. The council has up to 80 members representing cities; chambers of commerce; economic development and trade organizations; community, business, education organizations; and at-large members.
* Entrepreneurship is taught in many middle and high schools, and through the Florida Gulf Coast University School of Entrepreneurship. Many organizations provide free and low-cost professional support, such as the Small Business Development Center at FGCU, the nonprofit SCORE, and the Southwest Florida MicroEnterprise Institute.
* The Lee County Industrial Development Authority is a seven-member board appointed by the Lee County Commissioners tasked with fostering industrial and business development by encouraging local and relocating manufacturing companies to consider long-term, below-market-rate Industrial Development Revenue Bonds to finance new and expanding manufacturing facilities.
If variety is the spice of life, then a diverse economy is the entrée for healthy, growing, and vibrant communities—and that variety is a well-rounded ingredient in Southwest Florida.