Lucienne Pears, Director of Economic Development for Charlotte County, Florida, joined us for this month’s episode of Economic Development Secrets. With very high occupancy levels, the community lacks existing vacant space, posing a road block when recruiting projects. In order to address the problem, the county has created a Certified Sites program to help attract new business. Lucienne describes the program and how it has helped them be competitive in the post-recession market.
We did not have a lot of existing vacant space at that time so when the economy turned down, we were fortunate that we did not have a lot of vacant or closed property and that sort of a thing to deal with. However, in coming out of the recession, our neighbors who did have some of those vacant spaces were a bit ahead of us in locating properties but really, in all of southwest Florida, there is very little available vacant industrial space.
What we’ve done, and that includes Charlotte County, one of the things that we did was we created a Certified Sites program to show that we had not just what we call shovel ready sites, but the proof in the pudding that we have shovel ready sites for development. We took it one step further also and we as an economic development office, hired an architect and engineering firm to design a spec building and then we also went and pre-permitted that and we offer those pre-permitted building plans to potential site developers or companies at no cost to them and that’s in an effort to try to cut down two of the main things that companies look at that is speed to market and uncertainty.
The spec building program gets them ahead about 6 months in their planning perspective if they choose to use it and it also takes away the uncertainty of knowing whether or not they’re going to be able to get the permits for the building that they desire.
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