The SWFL Economic Development Alliances – Takes a Bite out of the Big Apple

John Coxby John S. Cox, CCE, CEcD, IOM
President & CEO

With thousands of exhibitors and more than 15,000 attendees, the Medical Design & Manufacturing East (MD&M) is the largest MedTech event on the East Coast. It was held June 10-12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.

The Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance (SWFLE DA) chose this as one of two tradeshows to attend in 2014 because of the strong presence of Southwest Florida companies in this sector. Although not an exhibitor at the show, Arthrex nonetheless was a “superstar”, globally recognized for excellence in medical device manufacturing and putting Southwest Florida on the map.

We found vendor companies and suppliers who would be interested in doing business with our existing companies and we found skilled talent interested in working for businesses in Southwest Florida.

I often began conversations with companies based in Connecticut and New Jersey with, “How many inches of snow did you get last winter?” After that, it was easy to focus
on the Southwest Florida region.

I was joined by Kristi Bartlett, our Vice President of Business Development, and economic development officials from Cape Coral, Ft. Myers and Bonita Springs attended to market the region for the first time as the Alliance.

  • We accomplished the following goals :
  • We built relationships with each other and learned we can effectively speak with one voice for our region, making us more competitive and more compelling.
  • We had a prime location and promoted the Southwest Florida brand – letting folks know that we are open for business.
  • We saw and learned from other regional groups such as The Polymer Alliance Zone of West Virginia and the Northeast Louisiana Economic Alliance; the folks from Waco
    and Central, Texas were exhibiting as were the recruiters from Monterey, Mexico.
  • We fulfilled a promise to our investors that we would market the region as one entity.

Many people came to our booth because they love the climate, the sunshine and the reputation of Florida as a place to visit. Over and over we heard, “Yes, we want to move there after we have retired.”

So we learned that we have to create a business brand and message for our region as well.

Southwest Florida as a region is not well known; it tends to get confused with Tampa and Sarasota. However, Naples, Marco Island and Fort Myers are recognized. We need to get the message out that we have a strong, young workforce and growing industries.

The SWFLE DA provided funds for the marketing activity of the Alliance to be conducted by the professional economic developers within the region. We are planning two out bound missions focused on site selection consultants. Our marketing calendar is very aggressive through 2014.

In order for the regional effort to be successful, we need to be a united front and work together. Future events such as this will only strengthen the relationship, thus making the Alliance stronger as well.

Opportunity Naples is laying the ground work for Collier to be a strong local economic development player, and the stronger we are locally the better equipped we are to serve the region. These conversations about job growth, diversity, talent, innovation and higher wages must take place if we want to be sustainable as a community and as a region.

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