Friday, January 18, 2002

George Mindling Column 1-18-2002 - Community Future

The Future of the Community

Aren't you a cracker?" I was asked at a Christmas party in Cape Coral last month. I was raised in Miami and the only crackers I ever met were at Monroe Station out on Loop Road. I was being asked this by a fellow who had moved here from Pennsylvania who raised cows on a farm. I hated to tell him what I thought a cracker was.

I'm not sure if the majority of northerners share this same misplaced definition of Cracker, but I assume it is fairly prevalent. No, we grew up in neighborhoods that look exactly like Port Charlotte. I went to elementary school in Westwood Lake in Miami, one of many Deltona or Mackle Brothers developments that populate the state. Most of those communities, however. have changed and moved forward. Port Charlotte has not. We have an opportunity now to help change that image. and the business community should take the initiative.

The economic development process is taking a new, definitive shape. Charlotte County has expanded its economic development with a department of four full-time employees. These people arc actively meeting with business groups to ask for planning input.

With the involvement of local organizations such as the Committee of 100, business input is finally being fed into the economic development process. The economic alignment with Lee and Collier counties is misplaced. especially Collier County, and the vacuum of not associating with Sarasota County will hopefully he corrected.

Business organizations that are basically social or quasi-independent from government may have good intentions when it comes to networking their products locally, but they don't have the foresight to drive the economic foundation that is required for 10, or 20, or even 50 years from now. One of the most naive approaches suggested is to ask a small business to assist its future competitors. How about a reality check here?

The fact we need business input now is evident in the new proposal for commercial building design standardization. The new Charlotte County proposal doesn't appear to be well thought out. It is simply a cookie-cutter approach used somewhere else. and it doesn't necessarily solve the problem of aesthetics, nor does it offer inducement to new firms to relocate here.

Literally, under the new guidelines. there will be no more supermarkets such as Publix or Winn-Dixie. simply because of the parking requirement in which no more than 40 percent of parking can be in front of the building. The County Administration Building at 18500 Murdock Circle doesn't even comply with the new facade and roof guidelines!

The business community knows we will suffer from terminal stagnation if the current approach dominates our future political and economic thinking. The segment of retirees who vocalize their opposition to any kind of growth won't be around to suffer the inadequate infrastructure they will leave as a legacy. Neither will their children. They take one look at the houses they inherit and turn them into rentals. Then they move to Cape Coral.

George Mindling © 2002

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