More Than Just Numbers
Sarasota, Lee and Collier counties are having economic expansion that Charlotte County does not share. What do they have to attract business? How are they doing it? Take a look at Lee County's Web site at http://www.leecountybusiness.com/. With 15 full time members on it's staff, the Lee County Economic Development Office takes full advantage of everything from the International Airport to the sunshine and water. Cape Coral advertises itself with the phrase, "You'll like the attitude in Paradise," with a half page ad in the Florida Small Business magazine. Simply stated, as a community, we have to have the desire for economic growth, the attitude that says you'll love it here and we'll do our best to prove it, and that is the critical first step.
According to the Economic Development Office, the average salary in Charlotte County last year was $23,845, up from the previous $22,554. That is salary per wage earner, not the family median income, which according to the latest HUD figures, is around $43,000. According to those figures, every wage earning family in Charlotte County has to have two wage earners. Either both husband and wife work, or as is the case with many families, the single parent has to hold down two, sometimes three jobs. There are many such families in Charlotte County. The average income in the United States was $35,305, and the average income for the State of Florida was $30,038! The average income in Charlotte County is over $6000 less than the state average!
It was discouraging to listen to the Economic Development Office's annual presentation to the County Commissioners on February 26. The presentation, done in the standard Microsoft PowerPoint format, was available on line at as an agenda item on the updated County Commission Web Page. The Economic Development Office only presented the first five slides before handing the podium over to the President of the Chamber of Commerce, only four minutes into the presentation. The information was presented in single slides of Business Environment, Enterprise Charlotte, Representatives, and one of "Visioning." There were four more slides on S.W.O.T., or Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and then the show was turned over to Janet Watermeier, executive director of the Economic Development Office of Lee County. Janet did the bulk of the presentation, finishing with slides that were not included in the on-line agenda. There was no warm, fuzzy feeling realizing Charlotte County couldn't give its own report.
After the presentation, Commissioners thanked the EDO office for all the wonderful work, but only Matt DeBoer added any substance to the presentation. DeBoer, as a member of Enterprise Charlotte, had attended the subcommittee workshops, and even commented on impact fees and utility connect fees. The current practice of not disclosing impact fees until the time the Certificate of Occupancy is awarded is but one of many problems. More than one commissioner responded with blank stares. If only one Commissioner does their homework, Charlotte County is in deep economic trouble in the future. It will take more than one Commissioner to make that critical first step.
Port Charlotte, Florida