As a business owner since I was 24 years old I know the effect of the cycles of the economy. I purchased McClash Heating & Cooling in 1982 just as the economy entered into a recession. It was a hard time and I struggled to survive. That experience made me a better business person and respect how fast a recession can happen.
Today we are experiencing a recession cycle. Unlike the several others I have been through this one is longer and deeper. Many of us feel the direct effects while some are effected indirectly. Either way it effects our life.
I own and manage rental properties today. I have seen many people leave our community due to the lack of jobs. While everyone of their stories is a bit different, it saddens me to see so many people in distress. I have a very conservative business philosophy since my experience in 1982 and I bring that experience with me as your County Commissioner.
The current recession is not only a Manatee County issue, it is a worldwide issue as we struggle to do what we can to improve our economic health. One way is to build upon existing economic assets. In Manatee County we are lucky to have a deep water port, an attractive tourist destination and a high quality of community to attract those wanting to retire.
Port Manatee is the closest deep water port in the United States to the Panama Canal. We are also the only port in Florida with so much vacant land adjacent to the Port and uncongested access to the Interstate. Using the Port as an economic catalyst we can diversify the economy and bring in higher than average paying jobs. I presented a concept to establish around the Port what I call an Encouragement Zone.
The Port Encouragement Zone has been embraced by the entire Board of Commissioners and has worked through the necessary changes in our codes and policies to make it a reality. At the end of this year we will have perhaps the largest economic incentive offered to bring clean business to our County. The goals are to have a 90 day approval of site plan to building permit, impact fee exemptions, joint marketing with our Port, and a DRI (development of regional impact) exemption. We have branded this area the Florida International Gateway.
This may not sound like a lot but in the fast pace of the shipping business they can not wait 2-3 years for an approval. There are also other benefits that we can also build into the Encouragement Zone. We are able to offer a winning partnership between property owners around the Port, the Port, Manatee County and new business owners willing to invest in our community.
Tourism is a clean industry that is worth expanding. Our location is a perfect destination. Eco-tourism is the new buzz and we have plenty to offer. As past Chairman of the Tourist Development Council I have helped guide our marketing and publicity efforts to insure we continue to increase our market share for tourism.
Manatee County is in the perfect location to attract those looking to retire. With our high quality diverse communities and diverse activities we can continue to have continued economic benefit from the developments needed to support our new retirees.
The county administrator has done a great job in guiding the County during these challenging times. Our local government was forced to respond to depressed economic conditions which included a reduction in over $80 million of yearly revenue. The Administrator took policy direction from the Commissioners and reduced the size of government. By allowing people to do their jobs and hold them accountable, the County is more efficient. He led a strategy for economic incentives
which were approved by the Commissioners to diversify our local economy and continue to increase jobs. I also share with the Administrator my historical knowledge on County issues that help develop policy.