As the year winds down, there is so much to look back on and even more to look forward to in the next few months.
The University of Florida football team has climbed back into contention for the Southeastern Conference championship; the new men’s and women’s basketball teams have started well, and the city of Gainesville is set for exciting new growth in the business sector.
In the last couple issues, we have highlighted several business organizations that are making significant investments in our local economy. Private companies and public-private partnerships are building new facilities, hiring new employees and doing their best to attract investment capital to the area.
None of this should come as a surprise.
Every city, every state and every large university in the country wants economic development. There’s lots of competition for new jobs, especially jobs that pay well and keep or attract highly educated workers. For every new job created, there is a multiplier effect that feeds the local economy. Retailers, grocers, doctors, bankers, Realtors, contractors, accountants, lawyers, churches, schools and every other category of business does well when new jobs are created.
The only downside is more traffic.
We have to have a workable plan. The plan starts with a well-trained, or trainable, workforce. We’ve got that covered. Our public and private schools, technical schools, Santa Fe College and the University of Florida are doing an excellent job of worker preparation.
Next, we have to have an attractive environment for business to locate. That’s in place, as well. We have lots of available land, good access to distribution facilities and a good tax environment for companies to operate in. We also need to encourage connectivity between entrepreneurs and investors, be that borrowers and bankers or equity lenders.
But, most of all, we need a marketing plan.
As I noted earlier, every city and county in the country wants more business. More business means more tax revenues and we all know that’s really the number one civic objective. Having a bunch of new families, new buildings and new houses is nice, but having money to build sidewalks and schools is what will really get local governments excited.
So, I say again, we need a marketing strategy.
What makes us better than Austin or Houston or Baton Rouge? Who makes the decisions? Why do young professionals want to live in Atlanta or Charlotte or Dallas? How can Chicago, Boston and San Francisco, with their suffocating taxes, compete with us? Who wants to live in Minneapolis or Denver from November to May? It rains a lot here, but for goodness sakes Portland and Seattle?
And, I can’t even begin to list the qualities that make Albuquerque or Phoenix or Oklahoma City so successful in their economic development efforts. But, all these cities are doing an incredible job and that’s where the competition is?
So, let’s all work hard to tell the wonderful story of Gainesville and Alachua County.
We can be competitive. We can be innovative with financing and tax programs. We can work with local governments and school systems to develop educational curricula that is modern and topical.
We can do all that and still not be competitive. What we can’t do is stop trying. We have to try harder and harder and harder. We have to unite in the effort. We have to support, fund and encourage our marketing programs. And, perhaps most importantly, we have to demand feedback from those making the sales pitch.
Happy holidays and best wishes for a productive new year.