by John S. Cox, CCE, CEcD, IOM
President & CEO
Hopefully you are hearing and reading about a community wide initiative called Opportunity Naples. The Board of Collier County Commissioners and The Greater Naples
Chamber of Commerce have launched a community conversation regarding our workforce, sustainable jobs and robust future.
The actual and anecdotal data on Collier County are descriptive of our core, historic economic realities: We are a tourist destination with the largest part of our more than $7 billion in annual earnings coming from retail sales and specifically the hospitality industry.
We are a strong construction market which, like the rest of the country, is coming back with increasing real estate values, increased permitting and declining inventories of available properties.
We are agriculture and the work done here in beef cattle, citrus and vegetable farming underlines the fact that we help feed the world. And we are an emerging health care and medical tourism market.
In short, Naples feeds you, houses you, entertains you and takes care of you whatever your medical needs might be. And we do it better than any other place in the United States. Collier County is the best place in America to live, work and visit.
“Is that sustainable?” Are those the kinds of things which will make this a destination of choice and a quality of place that young professionals will want to move to as they start and build their own industries, careers and families? Can we add to those economic realities cited above new economic realities that are shaping aspirational
communities all across the world?
We know that community stakeholders, not-for-profits, foundations, special interest groups, residents and communities need to be engaged to create a community story with a chapter devoted to each one and yet tells one compelling story.
We believe the economy is best served when good business and good government work together. We also believe that the future of economic development tomorrow is excellence in education today. And we know that community stakeholders, not-for-profits, foundations, special interest groups, residents and communities need
to be engaged to create a community story with a chapter devoted to each one and yet tells one compelling story.
We have completed three large pieces of research, namely A Competitive Assessment—which can be found by clicking on the Document Tab at www.opportunitynaples.com – and The Target Market Analysis and A Marketing Review. The last two documents should be online by May 1. We want and need for a broad cross section of our community to read and respond to the research.
A Steering Committee (SC), chaired by Dudley Goodlette, comprised of approximately 45 stakeholders (and dozens more in other roles), is providing oversight and input over an eight-month process. The SC has completed the Competitive Assessment and is now reviewing both the Target Market Analysis and the Marketing Review. At the May SC meeting we will review the DRAFT Community and Economic Development Strategy and—most importantly—we will discuss an Implementation Plan. We believe
with the level of community involvement outlined and with good government and good business working together we can together identify, create and pursue Opportunity Naples (ON).
We can’t become enchanted with our historic economic models’ resurgence as the economy gets better. The tourists are back, retail sales are up, residential permitting is climbing, the medical sector is growing and agriculture is doing very well. We need and want all of that. And we need more.
First we will have to look at entrepreneurial activity, both existing and newly imagined. Second, Foreign Direct Investment should be a natural outcome of the diverse and dynamic international community already in residence here—and it should be encouraged. Third, innovation and technology will be the “on/off” switch for accelerated
economic activity to occur. Fourth, small business will lead the way.
And finally, education is essential—the more we learn the more we will earn; the best way to increase talent supply (workforce) is through education.
The work we do together to sustain our economy over time, creating higher paying jobs that demand greater skills IS the work of community building. This effort ultimately helps raise educational standards and scores, lower unemployment numbers, reduce crime, eliminate infant mortality rates, address childhood obesity, and
proactively deal with systemic illness and addictions that could rob us of our future.
This community is the best place in America to live, work and visit. Together we can prove it. We can do it together. The risk is worth the reward. The potential in paradise is endless. The Opportunity for Naples is now
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