2017-05-18 / Business News

Economic development alliance looks to the future of SWFL

GUEST OPINION
BY ALAN REYNOLDS


REYNOLDS REYNOLDS Three years ago, the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance was in its infancy, nurtured by a small but powerful and determined group of community leaders. The founders of the effort understood the critical importance of an entity dedicated solely to marketing the region to economic development professionals both nationally and internationally.

The alliance has since evolved considerably, and though we are still a young organization, we have made incredible progress.

Our president, Eric Berglund, arrived in Southwest Florida from Denver only two short years ago. He has since held nearly 150 one-on-one meetings with interested parties; the alliance has represented the region at 35 expos and summits and has participated in numerous in-bound and out-of-market visits. One company has located here because of our efforts, and several others are in various stages of development.

Our website, www.SWFLEDA.com, is now a destination website for professionals whose jobs include identifying competitive locations for company expansions, new headquarters, startups and relocations. It offers a wealth of information these site selectors rely upon to make recommendations, including data about available land for new construction, existing commercial and industrial space, workforce demographics and availability, target industries and business sectors and of course, ample information about the incredible quality of life we all enjoy here in Southwest Florida.

The website alone hosted more than 20,000 visitor sessions during the past year, including 25,000 unique sessions. The most visited page on the site? Top 100 Employers. The page that held visitors’ interest the longest? The property locator.

Engaging in an active social media effort has extended the reach of the alliance, as well: Last year saw more than 134,000 impressions — a 320 percent increase over the prior year.

The impacts are clear: More and more industry professionals are learning about Southwest Florida as a region through the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance, and that visibility plants the seeds for the kind of healthy growth we need to diversify our economy and employ our workforce.

Another area of significant evolution for the alliance: Our partnerships with local governments, economic development offices and business-focused organizations. These relationships are absolutely critical to the success of regional economic development efforts in Southwest Florida; while the alliance is often the “face” of the region, we work tirelessly to nurture relationships between industry professionals and the local representatives that might be a match for their business opportunities.

With Florida’s recent ranking as the No. 2 state for business in Chief Executive magazine’s 13th annual “Best and Worst States for Business” survey, now is an opportune time to expand support and increase the alliance’s current focus to present Southwest Florida as a desirable destination for business based on the overall assets and attributes of our diverse region. Think of it as a funnel, where the interest from industry professionals and site selectors begins with an attraction to the overall region through the marketing efforts of the alliance. As the familiarization process continues, these prospects begin to narrow their interest to options within the region. The local partners, engaged throughout the process, respond with additional information, tours, interviews and site visits that are tailored to the prospect’s needs.

The alliance is supported by a strong group of both public and private sector organizations whose visionary leadership is critical to our success today and in the future. We are grateful for their support and for the genuine dedication to the alliance’s mission.

As we continue to evolve and our efforts strengthen, the alliance is focused on several goals:

¦ Expanding our outreach via industry events

¦ Hosting top site selectors for oneon one visits to the region

¦ Targeting specific business sectors that match the industry clusters thriving in Southwest Florida

¦ Strengthening our communications to key stakeholders, including our investors and the public

On behalf of the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance, I invite you to join our efforts. Visit www.SWFLEDA.com to learn more. ¦

— Alan Reynolds is chairman of the board for the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance, which serves the five- county region of Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties.

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