Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sanborn brings Film / TV Production to Region - Maybe

"We want people from Hollywood to come here and fall in love with Sarasota, just like we have," Sanborn said, standing in the hangar.

Entrepreneur to build movie and TV production campus

Kathy Baylis, president of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, called the deal with Sanborn "a game changer" for the local economyBesides bringing an exciting, high-profile business to Sarasota County, this kind of business creates spin-off jobs, she said.
* * *

Tax credits like these were "critical" to Sanborn deciding to put his studio in Florida, he said.
Giving incentives to companies to build filmmaking infrastructure like this is the reason behind the big incentive package the Legislature approved.
"That's basically what he's doing, is building infrastructure," Lucia Fishburne, Florida's film commissioner, said of Sanborn's plans.
* * *
Ringling President Larry Thompson floated another idea for local filmmaking infrastructure last week when he asked county commissioners to help pay for a $1 million post-production center on campus. Thompson says he has commitments from producers and directors, including Werner Herzog and Paul Schiff, to do post-production work on their films at the school if the Ringling studio were built.
[ed. note: we live-blogged an earlier discussion of this proposal here.]
* * *

Both Sanborn and Behr are quick to admit that their plan to build a studio is no sure thing. If they can sell the "Miami 24/7" series idea at an upcoming American Film Market convention in California, for example, it would provide them with deal momentum that they presently lack.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A bracing call for support of the Bed Tax

Calling All Sarasotans (includes Business Leaders & Owners, Community Activists & Park Lovers, Elected Officials & Government Employees, Parents, Retirees, Athletes & Coaches, Seniors, Visionaries, and Rowing Aficionados),

WE HAVE AN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE HISTORY AND WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT!!!  Next week, (Thursday, September 16th, at 3 pm, 1660 Ringling Boulevard), the Sarasota County Tourist Development Council is discussing future uses for the Tourist Development Tax (TDT).  We are asking them to approve an additional ½-cent portion of the Bed Tax to help fund the Nathan Benderson Park.  This request is vital.  Once completed, this community park will improve the quality-of-life for both residents and visitors.  As a rowing facility, it will attract domestic and international rowers, their coaches and families, and tens of thousands of spectators year-round.  The rowing park will make dreams come true and add to the economic sustainability of our community.
PLEASE ATTEND THIS IMPORTANT PUBLIC MEETING.  To show our solidarity, we are asking that everyone wear lime green shirts, the universal color from this year's regatta season.  If you don't have a lime green shirt, we can provide you with one that proclaims our message,
For more information, please call me at 941-400-7333 or e-mail me atops@environeers.com .

 John Krotec

 Member, Regatta Organizing Committee

 Chairman, Fruitville 210 Community Alliance
Home and small business owner

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Workshop on Planning for the Fruitville exchange

Those interested in the future of planning and in the quality of communication among stakeholders in the community take note:

Tonight (Tuesday, August 31, from 6:30-8:30 PM), you are invited again to participate in the third of five workshops being conducted by the Sarasota County Planning Department at The Church of Hope, 1560 Wendell Kent Road (Fruitville Road to Coburn North. Coburn North to Richardson Road. Left onto Richardson Road. Richardson West to termination at I-75. Right onto Wendell Kent Road/Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. Travel North approximately 1/2 mile. Park on the South side of building).

This workshop is extremely important to the development of the Fruitville/I-75 area. As residents, it is vitally important for us to be part of the planning process and to offer our input on projects that will affect our quality-of-life for years to come. Tonight's workshop will include a discussion on existing land uses, potential zoning districts, and how much square footage (baseline) could currently be allowed on the 325 acres. They will review how much square footage could be allowed under scenarios such as the "Illustrative Plan," and options with transect planning, including discussion of general impacts that baseline and transect scenarios might have on the area and local residents. Input from local residents is encouraged in these discussions. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Parks and Smart Growth

Via an email from John Krotec, local civic leader and head of the Fruitville 210 Community Alliance:
Below is some reference material that helps support the Smart Growth aspect of the Benderson Park project.  Despite the fact that it will be a world-class rowing facility, this park will be a great example of smart growth principals in action.  Imagine how visitors and residents will feel when they visit such a state-of-the-art park and rowing facility!!!  It would certainly be a bright spot for our community.  Take care.

"How Cities Use Parks to Promote Smart Growth"

Executive Summary

Parks are commonly thought of as the venue for "fun and games," but that is only one role they play in a metropolitan environment. Urban parks, which broadly include parkland, plazas, landscaped boulevards, waterfront promenades, and public gardens, significantly define the layout, real estate value, traffic flow, public events, and the civic culture of our communities.With open spaces, our cities and neighborhoods take on structure, beauty, breathing room, and value.

Public understanding of the pivotal role that parks play in enhancing the quality of life in our cities is growing, along with an understanding of the links between the quality of city parks and sprawling growth on the fringe of cities. City parks are an important element of smart growth that addresses both the public's need for greenspace and the role of greenspace in mitigating higher development density. The smart growth concerns of the public create opportunities for both public agencies and private foundations to leverage support for smart growth, "by making and "re-making" city parks that both strengthen urban cores and protect the fringe.

  • Key Point #1 - Parks have voter support to direct public funds toward growth management strategies.
  • Key Point #2 - Parks enhance mixed development and redevelopment strategies, offsetting higher density concerns with accessibility to greenspace.
  • Key Point #3 - Parks can both strengthen the urban core and protect the fringe from overdevelopment.


Parks have voter support to direct public funds toward growth management strategies.

Over the last decade, voters have overwhelmingly supported additional spending for parks and open space conservation. Since 1998, more than 750 measures have gone before voters across the country, with a successful passage rate of 80 percent. Nearly $30 billion in new park and conservation funding has been created — more than $4 billion in cities alone since 1996.

In the November 2003 election, voters created $1.8 billion of new conservation funding, passing 100 out of 134 measures on the ballot. The use of new tax dollars to pay for parks and greenspace is a trend that recognizes the leveraging value of the enormous public interest in parks and greenspace. It is fueling new strategies and investments, blending regulatory and market-based tools to address the challenging issues of density, mixed use, and community livability.

This issue is important to voters from a number of smart growth angles. Voters prioritize water as a critical reason to buy land, no matter how it is expressed — from drinking water protection to protection of rivers and streams.Voters care about "natural areas," not "open space," which more often conveys a message of abandoned lots. And most importantly, voters care about creating parks for a reason — natural areas, recreation, and safe places for kids to play — rather than just creating parks that abstractly prevent sprawl.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, 68 percent of voters approved a $72 million bond measure for parks and open space in November 2003. The focus of the measure is to create a greenbelt around the city. "In neighboring communities there has been a very real and negative impact from sprawl, and the voters in Ann Arbor can see it themselves," according to Doug Cowerd, co-chair of the campaign. "There has been an impact on quality of life and voters have shown they are willing to pay to try and affect some positive change." (Trust for Public Land and Land Trust Alliance, 2004.)

Miami, Los Angeles, and Raleigh, North Carolina, have also benefited from partnerships with their counties, passing park measures worth hundreds of millions of dollars which are split between counties and cities for their separate priorities. Last November, voters in Raleigh passed a $47 million bond measure with a 69 percent margin (Trust for Public Land and Land Trust Alliance,2004). The funds will be spent over a seven-year period, which allows the city to pay them back without an increase in taxes.These funds can be further leveraged by use of a grant fund set up by Wake County. Grants are made for both planning and land acquisition. A 50 percent local match is required. Some municipalities have been allowed to pay their portion over time through a loan from the county.

In states where state programs will match local funding, including Florida, Massachusetts, Colorado, and New Jersey, local ballot measures have won partly on the availability of state funding matches that leverage local buying power. In 2003, in New Jersey, 27 municipalities passed measures ranging in size from $180,000 to more than $9 million (Trust for Public Land and Land Trust Alliance, 2004). Now 189 municipalities in New Jersey have dedicated open space taxes, generating more than $200 million a year in funding.


Parks enhance mixed development and redevelopment strategies, offsetting higher density concerns with accessibility to greenspace.

City neighborhoods need to maintain or increase their population while staying attractive and livable; however, density often remains a contentious issue for city neighborhoods of all types and sizes. Many residents oppose high density because they believe it will consume open space, exacerbate parking and traffic issues, or threaten the existing quality of life. A strong policy promoting parks and green-space can play a crucial role in addressing these concerns.

As many now understand, density is less the issue than design and amenities. A recent study in Texas showed that people are twice as likely to accept smaller residential properties if there is a park nearby (44.3 percent versus 18.6 percent) (Waugh, 2004).

Vancouver, British Columbia, is widely recognized as a leader in making high density work.That city's efforts stem from the adoption of their Central Area Plan in the late 1980s, which shaped a growth strategy emphasizing housing and neighborhoods first, known locally as "Living First." Vancouver's focus on a core-area open space system acts to mitigate higher density, and to tie areas together by allowing people to travel on foot. As Larry Beasley,co-director of Vancouver Planning, comments, "It's about the open space and the public realm being used to contribute to neighborhood form and identity. It's not about having useless private plazas, but instead shaping buildings to emphasize the respite of open public park spaces and squares that are an integral part of every neighborhood building cluster." (Beasley, 2002.)

One barrier to infill development is the need for upgraded infrastructure, including parks, to attract developers. Some cities are trying to address this issue. In 1998, the city council of Portland, Oregon, approved a systems development charge (SDC) that partly offsets the costs of services needed to support new housing.At the current rate of $1,630 per single-family unit, the residential development fee generates about $1.5 million a year for park capital improvements. Based on the SDC, the city developed a 20-year plan to build more capacity into the park system.

Across the country, 11 of the nation's largest cities, including Ft.Worth, Chicago, and Albuquerque, use impact fees to try to offset the costs of services delivered with new housing.


Parks can both strengthen the urban core and protect the fringe from overdevelopment.

There is an important connection between open space/park programs and urban/metro growth policy. By reducing or eliminating some of the infrastructure and financial incentives for developing low-density "edge cities" far from the centers of metropolitan areas, cities can be created that have both vitality and environmental sustainability. A dense, vital central city helps decrease the pressure for peripheral development, while policies that limit development at the edge encourage the kind of infill development that helps keep central cities alive.

Although public interest and support for new conservation programs is high, elected officials rarely leverage city park projects and other green infrastructure into regional policies that protect against sprawl.

In an attempt to persuade cities and counties to think more about smart growth, Maryland's Priority Places Strategy uses the "carrot" of state funding, including infrastructure funds, as incentive for local governments to redirect development to existing growth areas.The program has helped support neighborhood redevelopment as well as protection of rural and open space resources with grants for land conservation.

Austin, Texas, is seeking to control sprawl by focusing on the protection of drinking water. After a comprehensive mapping project showed that new housing construction was negatively affecting the city's all-important drinking water source, the Edwards Aquifer, the city decided to direct its public transportation and park investments to East Austin in an attempt to attract developers to concentrate growth on the less sensitive east side of town. East Austin is not only outside the drinking water protection zone but also is an area historically underserved by parks (Blaha and Harnik, 2000). Austin's 2004 Smart Growth map shows four new destination parks, all the city's proposed new rail corridors, and proposed infill development targeted to its "Desired Development Zone" on the east side of the city, and extensive watershed protection goals for the west part of the city. Since 1998, Austin has raised $153 million through ballot initiatives for parks, open space, and watershed protection.

Sioux Falls, South Dakota, has also been aggressive in linking neighborhood conservation and rural development in its comprehensive plan, Sioux Falls 2015: A Growth Management Plan (Schmidt, 2002). While managing growth at the periphery — including mandating high-density projects and investing in new parks — Sioux Falls has aggressively redeveloped brownfields and vacant lands in its central city with the help of investments in its parks and trail system.

Regional park partnerships can work for growth management when multiple jurisdictions coordinate, and sometimes collaborate, on park plans that serve multiple needs across the region. Led by the Metropolitan Council, the seven counties surrounding the Twin Cities in Minnesota work together on a regional park and greenway plan that extends from rural sites that protect water quality to neighborhood parks and playgrounds in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Goals to protect natural areas in rural and suburban areas, as well as equity "gaps" in urban areas, are combined in planning and public outreach strategies. The Metropolitan Council received an award this year from APA's Minnesota chapter for its regional growth plan, which emphasizes four smart growth policies including conservation of natural resources for parks and economic benefits (www.metrocouncil.org/parks/parks.htm).

Based on the experiences of Maryland, Austin, Sioux Falls, and the Metropolitan Council in Minnesota, a parks/growth management policy effort can be effective if it is strongly supported by elected officials, the business community, and the general public. Their leadership requires continuing efforts on the part of local planners to keep citizens involved in the planning process, and to keep parks positioned as a redevelopment and growth management tool.


Beasley, Larry. 2000. "Design for Living in Vancouver." Paper given at CNU 2000 Congress.

Blaha, Kathleen and Peter Harnik. 2000. Opportunities for Smarter Growth: Parks, Greenspace and Land Conservation. Coral Gables, Florida: Funders' Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. June.

Schmitt, Jeffrey. 2002. "Sioux Falls 2015: A Growth Management Plan." Paper given at the 2002 APA National Conference. April.

Trust for Public Land and Land Trust Alliance. 2004. LandVote 2003.www.tpl.org/download_landvote_03.cfm.

Waugh, Dave C. 2004. "Buying New Urbanism:A Study of New Urban Characteristics That Residents Most Value." Texas State University-San Marcos, Department of Political Science (Pol. Sci. 5397), Spring.

This briefing paper was written by Kathy Blaha, senior vice president for national programs at the Trust for Public Land. Questions about this briefing paper may be directed to Kathy.blaha@tpl.org.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Local Primaries Results

Some are final results, some still being counted.

Voter Turnout

Sarasota voters staying home today?

How can cities (or counties) use parks for economic development?

Public parks are often the "engine" that drives tourism in many communities. In a simplified tourism model, visitors use some mode of transportation to leave their homes and travel to attractions, which are supported by various kinds of services, such as hotels/motels, restaurants, and retailing.The attractions and support services provide information and promote their offerings to target groups they have identified as potential visitors.

Check out the briefing paper on how cities use parks here, or download the pdf here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hearing on Fruitville Comp Plan Amendment Continued

Four hours into a hearing on a proposed Comp. Plan Amendment, the Sarasota County Commission voted to continue the matter for three weeks.

The postponement is designed to give residents of Richardson Road neighborhoods east of I-75 time to talk with planners to see if they can find suitable common ground to shape the future of approximately 320 acres that involve two quadrants on I-75, east of the Fruitville exit.  (Some more background here).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Economic development meets the little foxes

What happens when priceless land near a major highway becomes ripe for development as a "major employment center," and residents who have lived in a nearby, placid neighborhood fear for the consequences?

Something of the sort is shaping up at the I-75 exit at Fruitville Road, where Sarasota County is considering allowing a Comp Plan amendment to enable more creative, unified, sensitive planning. At least that's what advocates promise. Opponents say the amendment would open a Pandora's box of higher densities and intensities than the Comp Plan currently permits. The residents fear for the wildlife - foxes, 182 species of birds - and tranquility that have been their lot for generations.

The County Commission will vote on amending the Comp Plan on Tuesday. One possible outcome: deferring a decision until the fall, so that all parties have time to examine potential consequences. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 31, 2010

More from Sarasota Community Connections

Economic development Property Tax Exemption put on ballot
Sarasota County commissioners unanimously approved a referendum on the Aug. 24 primary election ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would give the commission the authority to grant up to 100 percent of property tax exemptions for up to 10 years for existing and new businesses that qualify for the exemption. Officials from Venice, North Port and Sarasota also have expressed interest in the measure and will consider placing local versions of the ordinance on their ballots.
SCAT and Google partner to offer public transit options on Google Maps
Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) has a new online tool that makes it easy to ride a bus. Google Transit allows SCAT riders to plan their route with new features, including stop locations, transfer points, customizable routes and fare calculations.
Users of Google Maps looking for locations in Sarasota County will find accurate SCAT route informa
tion included when they search for directions to their destination. (MORE) 
Sarasota County Siesta Beach ranked No. 2 in country
For the second year in a row, Sarasota County's Siesta Beach has been ranked the second-best beach in the country by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, also known as Dr. Beach.
Dr. Leatherman, the director for Coastal Research at Florida International University, has been ranking the country's top 10 beaches annually for the last 20 years. In his review of Siesta Beach, Leatherman said, "With some of the finest, whitest sand in the world, Siesta Beach has clear, warm waters that serve for ideal swimming. This beach is great for volleyball and other types of recreational fitness."

Additional Planning Meetings Scheduled

Sarasota County continues to seek input on major community issues 
Sarasota County Planning Services has scheduled two addition meetings to discuss major community issues that the county's comprehensive plan should address during the next seven years.
The meetings are scheduled for:
  • 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 10, Sandra Sims Terry Community Center, 509 Collins Road, Laurel
  • 6-8 p.m. Thursday, June 17, Cooperative Extension Building, Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota
Each meeting will begin with the same overview presentation followed by a facilitated work session. The purpose of these meetings is to seek input from the public in identifying major community issues  that will steer the future direction of the comprehensive plan.
People who are unable to attend either meeting may supply comments or suggestions by sending an e-mail to ear@scgov.net. A short, online survey that seeks people's perspectives on issues facing the community is also available at the E.A.R. Web site.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coolidge on the vagaries of "Economic Development in Sarasota

Belatedly noted: This article by MC Coolidge in Creative Loafing, entitled Face Reality - (for more context, see here):
We’re so gaga over the idea of attracting film and entertainment business to the area that several City Commissioners (in the name of “economic development”) were in favor of leasing the much-used (and not-a-dime-subsidized) Sarasota Municipal Auditorium to Ringling College for soundstage use for a measly $1 a year. Thankfully, for once, the audacity inherent in the request, coming as it did from a college well-known for being so well-endowed it would make Jenna Jameson blush, riled up taxpayers enough to squelch the idea.
Of course, that deal would have been small potatoes compared to the heaps of taxpayer dollars Sarasota leaders have already spent pursuing “economic development” crushes that haven’t returned the sentiment. Do I need to remind readers about the roughly $5 million our city and county commissioners spent in pursuit of the Red Sox — for a “deal” that was never anywhere near real?
If government is going to be involved in and spend money on economic development for businesses (which I’m not at all sure it should be doing anyway), then I’d prefer them to focus on finding ways to develop and enhance the businesses that are already here — right down to the truly small businesses and including the many creative-type sole proprietors (of which I am one) who support those businesses — and to support new businesses that are committed to coming here and staying here without being paid off to do so.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rowing Regatta could be Big

From the local paper:

"We didn't understand the potential economic impact at the time," said Paul Blackketter, a project supervisor with Benderson Development Co., the real estate development firm whose retail, hotel and office properties surround the park. "We didn't understand rowing and what it could bring."
Benderson officials contend the accoutrements -- adequate retail and restaurants, hotels within close proximity, amenities such as museums and beaches -- will make the park the best in the U.S.
If some $40 million worth of amenities such as a boathouse, docks, improvements to Cattlemen Road and other upgrades are developed, as planned, experts say the park could become to rowing what London's Wembley Stadium is to soccer.
... Funded with federal stimulus dollars, $5 million from the county and a $1 million Benderson donation, the park and the road will be fully built out by early 2012.
Eventually, the park could host as many as 15 regattas a year, drawing some 200,000 people and pumping an estimated $40 million annually into the regional economy, company and county officials believe.
images from yesterday's warm-ups here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Sewer bills as high as $200"

How a small Alabama county turned a $250 million sewer project into $5 billion worth of debt with the help of J.P. Morgan and interest rate swaps. A catastrophe for Jefferson County AL, and for its citizens and taxpayers.

Matt Taibbi's story here, and Taibbi interviewed on Democracy Now.

Further reading: The Commodity Futures Modernization Act

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Volunteer Opp

Volunteers still needed for this weekend's Regatta -- more here.

Rowing at Benderson could have large economic impact

Via Mysuncoast:

SARASOTA - Athletes from around the world are already training here in Sarasota County, and by the end of 2011, Sarasota may become the premier rowing destination in North America.

If you're not a rower, what does that mean to you?  Money.

When the lake at Nathan Benderson Park is expanded to world-class rowing standards, leaders in the rowing world say it can attract regattas here that will bring in tens of thousands of people who'll spend several days and leave big bucks behind when they return home.

It's an amazing stroke of luck.

"Who would have thought a few years ago Sarasota could be a rowing destination?" says John Leeming, president of Sarasota Crew.

But it just happens that the 600-acre lake at the new Nathan Benderson Park -- a lake originally dug as a mining pit -- can become what some say would be the best world sanctioned rowing facility in North America.  It meets all the qualifications.  "It's a dedicated piece of a body of water.  It has no current, straight shoreline, good depth, great location for accessibility...local hotels and rest," says project manager Paul Blackketter.

Currently, the lake is 1500 meters long...not long enough for the world sanctioned rowing regattas.  But the county is already working on a project using federal stimulus money to extend Cattleman Road, which would increase the size of the lake to just under 2200 meters -- exactly what's needed in international rowing competitions.

This week, international leaders in the rowing world are in Sarasota, including the editor of Rowing Magazine and a representative from the Boston rowing facility.  Monday they told Sarasota County commissioners what a gold mine the county has with the lake.  "They are all thrilled by the fact that this course can be a 12 month a year rowing facility, and they are also enamored by our community and the access that they have to the intracoastal (waterway), which provides the long distance rowing venue for training."

And these experts say when the lake is expanded to required length, the county could attract more than 77 countries to world class rowing regattas.  And that would certainly have an effect on our economy.  "Tremendous effect.  An average regatta can attract over 10,000 people; ten regattas a year, you're looking a more than 100,000 people...huge economic impact."

The Florida Inter-collegiate Rowing Regatta is coming up at Nathan Benderson Park this weekend.  12 colleges from across Florida will compete for the state championship on Friday and Saturday.

View Larger Map

Monday, March 22, 2010

Swimming with Sharks

Richard Clapp, mayor of Sarasota, swam 
with bonnethead sharks (which eat 
only crustaceans and small fish) to interest Google.

The mayor of Duluth, Minn., threw himself into the ice-ringed waters of Lake Superior. The mayor of Sarasota, Fla., immersed himself in a tank filled with bonnethead sharks, simply to one-up him. The mayor of Wilmington, N.C., said that he would even jump out of an airplane — with a parachute, of course.
... Google’s offer of a network with speeds of one gigabit per second, or 100 times faster than many of today’s high-speed connections, could be a great selling point for a recession-plagued town. Newspaper.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hi-Speed Internet has support in Sarasota


Sarasota, FL: A community effort is underway to bring an experimental ultra high-speed internet service to Sarasota, and you can show your support for it. Google plans to launch a test system in a select few locations in the United States for a fiber network with unprecedented speed. The experimental system would provide internet connections 100 times faster than what most Americans currently use, according to information released by Google.

Google is asking municipalities throughout the nation to submit information about their communities via a Request for Information (RFI), which will be used to determine where the experimental networks will be built. Civic groups can also nominate their community. A group of community leaders within Sarasota is working to provide the requested information to Google by the deadline Fri., March 26, 2010.

To learn more about the fiber network project visit here and here.

To show support for Sarasota becoming one of Google's test markets, become a fan of I Want Google Fiber in Sarasota on Facebook.

Jan Thornburg
City of Sarasota
Public Information Officer
941-650-9693 (Cell)
941-954-4113 (Fax)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Newtown Estates BBQ and Blues

An invite from the friends of Newtown Estates
The Friends of Newtown Estates would like to invite all to our Community BBQ Cook-off and Blues Festival  Feb. 20, from 10 until  the open air theater begins around  6 pm.  We have booth space available  Please call Newtown Estates office for more information. Thanks.

Newtown Estates Park

2800 Newtown Blvd., Sarasota, FL, 34234
(941) 861-9870 

Monday, February 8, 2010

Economic Recovery Forum Video is back online

After some rejiggering, the county's server is working again, and the full video of the Forum can be seen here:


Friday, February 5, 2010

Perhaps water could be cheaper in Sarasota

This is small beans, but, still. -

Every month I receive two water bills from the county - one for water used, the other a fractionated finance charge, which is the same each month, and will be the same until, at some infinite future point, it's paid off.

I pay both bills online. The one that's the same - $15.09 - every month, I have set as an automated payment - the bank just kicks out a check in that amount every month. As in: no bill necessary. The county could save itself the labor and materials of sending out the paper bill, the return envelope, and the envelope containing both. It could all be done digitally, with an end of year statement, again, digital, or, up to you, it could be paper, if you prefer. But no, apparently that's not possible in Sarasota County. The people who pay their bills pay more, I'll wager, because we are paying for all the dead trees used to send us redundant information, month after month.

Just had to vent. Back to "the Arts."

Sarasota Business Today

Sarasota County focuses on economic development with ‘Sarasota Business Today’ news program

Sarasota County has launched a new public service news program called “Sarasota Business Today.” The program focuses on a spectrum of county economic development initiatives and local businesses, with the theme of: “Live. Work. Learn. Play.”

More here

Grand Opening in Tampa

Tampa Museum of Art opens Saturday

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Link to Taped Forum

A file of the televised Economic Recovery Forum that took place on Feb. 2, 2010 can be found on the county's website here:


See here for a stab at live blogging of the conversation, and other previous posts on this blog for more context, documentation.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Hedrick Smith talks Thursday

Pulitzer Prize author and journalist Hedrick Smith speaks tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Hyatt. His topic is: ”The Dream at Risk, America’s Insecurity at Home and Abroad.” Find out more from the Forum Truth site - the talk begins at 7:30 pm.

Here's an interview with Smith by Doug Miles from a day ago.

Forum in the news

A brief story about the Economic Recovery Forum in today's paper:

Prescription for Sarasota County: a new economy

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Post-Forum - a couple more questions

Since the forum discussion leaned rather heavily on the arts, on design, and on messaging (marketing, tourism, etc.), it seems worthwhile to consider what it takes to become an arts center, as opposed to an artsy and cool place.

With that in mind, a question I submitted - rather late in the forum, which doubtless received many during its interesting 90-minute discussion, was this:
Many upscale communities across the US lay claim to being "artsy" or significant places where art is made. How does Sarasota - or any wannabe arts center - establish objectively that they really are special?  
That's a sort of philosophic aspect of the matter, but one that needs to be addressed. There's also a more pragmatic question of what sort of commitment a community is willing to make to the Arts.

It seems to me that a community that makes quality art needs to make it possible for folks without a great source of income to live, work, find the necessary materials, tools, and ultimately audiences. In New York City, where I used to live, the pattern was that artists would take over a decrepit neighborhood, create workplaces, as they did in SoHo, TriBeCa, and the East Village - and then, as they became "cool places," attracting bistros, galleries, bars, restaurants and real estate mavens, the actual artists were priced out of being able to live there.

Obama rolls out Small Business lending program

Practically coincident with the Economic Development Forum came this bit of news from the Federal level:

WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama proposed a $30 billion small business lending program Tuesday, the latest in a series of administration efforts to jump-start hiring by the nation's small businesses.


Economic Recovery: Excerpts from the Conversation

Blogging the Forum live - beware typos:

Don Grimes, Univ. of Mich economist: Sarasota had a sense of immunity prior to the downturn. Then came bursting of the bubble.
  • 18% of jobs lost since 2006 - 1 of every 5 jobs is gone.
  • Foreclosures have exploded.
  • Everybody who's bought a house since 2004 in Sarasota County is upside down.
Pat Neal - Builder, Neal Communities.
  • Fifth recession I've seen - "this is by far the worst."
Jody Hudgins, Banking, FNB Corp., Sarasota Cty. Planning Commission
  • "We all loaned into a market that was kind of silly." Can't take on any more risk.
What is the recovery going to look like?

Nora Patterson:

  • Gov''t. can't do everything, but can help. Sarasota County is positioned to be of assistance. Bonding out long planned projects to put jobs on the street. Incentives for higher wage employment. Community "SWAT Team" to help EDC recruit.
  • Also a referendum coming - in August 2010: Ask citizens if they'll support eliminate property tax for higher wage employers - to broaden the economy of Sarasota. This is the time to broaden the economy.

Comm. Joe Barbetta
  • I've been talking about tax abatement since 1995. Should hvae had it in place a long time ago. Need to help incentivize private sector to move forward.

Jeff Maultsby EDC mgr.
  • We're also looking at venture capital fund - getting into, or contributing to it.

Lauren Mayk: Question came in: What about existing businesses?

  • We have incentives - "there are so many businesses here that need to be taken to the next level"

Larry Thompson - Ringling College Pres.
  • Two years ago, Economic Development was a negative term here. "A crisis has brought reality to the community." 

Pat Neal
  • Cash cows for Sarasota: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid - that is not a diversified economy. Need to look at Economic devel. in a whole new way.

  • TARP money is enabling some banks to lend. The community banks - 65% of job creation - they're getting hit on real estate - worried about having enough capital to survive. Today's announcement - from the President - to help banks - not TARP 2 - another kind of program - should help. These new guidelines being proposed today should help.
Kathy Bates (sp?)
  • "Economic gardening" - state economic program - pretty sophisticated - provide a loan. Also  a state venture cap program. Locally we have in North Port looking at revolving loan fund, and here, angel investors are looking at investments. WE're doing everything we can to make sure out businesses are aware of them. Economic Gardening - $8.4 million loan program for the state.

  • Venture Capital - follow the strategy - it would be exciting to see venture stopgate investing start here.- seed money, prototype, design, launch - I don't know who would coordinate it.

FPL Kathy Salvador -

  • We think Florida can be a hub for green economy. We want to build n momentum, and bring a much larger scale to the state - we need right legislation, renewable energy policies. We want to support as much renewable energy development as possible. 

Mayk: What kinds of jobs?

  • That's where scale becomes important. Right now 110 MW is being built. Pending approval for 700 more MegaWatts. If we get the scale here to draw manufacturers, we'd get jobs in solar, construction.
Barbetta -
  •  there are tens of thousands of homes that are substandard - retrofitting those homes, bringing them up to current standards - there's a business out there, and now there's the political will.
  • We should be looking at a center for excellence to get companies to the next level. We have a business commuity that's on board. Ringling is a world class institution.
Thompson - 
  • Thinking about using Ringling as a base for design industries. Aging is a key - think of it as an opportunity - to be a test bed for products, services, needed for people who are aging. 
  • Design goes way beyond packaging. It's actually about designing new businesses, new ways of dealing with customers, new products and making experiences for people. Think of Starbucks - it's about design - you go in because it feels good. Pleasant experience. That is design. You can create experiences when people come into your business. 
  • Target couldn't compete with Wal-Mart on price, so they competed on design. 
(Your humble blogger: OK, but those are boom-type luxuries - aren't we in a recession?)

Man in audience - Create a think tank - for design. 

  • Baby Boomers are not, for example, going to put up with wheelchairs and walkers - they are going to want corvettes.
Virginia Haley - 
  • Tourism. Sarasota has made investments in critical aspects of tourism - the Orioles, rowing facility, the beaches. Also have the arts, and natural land. Our marketing tagline is "Beyond the beach."
  • It's a new role for tourism - we're not selling one generic Sarasota to hte world - highly specific messages, targeting, drilling down to visitors that we know are really interested.
  • We need to better help people plan their trips here.

Thompson -
  • The Arts are like the fifth largest employer in Sarasota. The arts get people's attention, they come back, then eventually choose to live here. 

Grimes -
  • Sarasota is second to Manhattan in terms of percentage of pop. employed in the arts. Virtually unique. When we think about what is going to distinguish us, when we ask why would a person want to move here, we have to keep in mind that our arts and natural environment are key advantages. A lot of opportunity.

Speaker in audience:
the key is to diversify the economy - it's always been construction, real estate here. Now it has to be different.

Pat Neal -
  • have to split the thinking which says no growth to protect the quality of life. We have to change our attitude as it's expressed to people who come here. We have to disaggregate the idea that new growth is bad.
Nora Patterson:
  • I think Pat is absolutely correct - sustainable growth rather than building huge subdivisions that have no economic core. Most of the small businesses that come here move here because their CEO's think this is a fabulous place.
  • Tax abatements - the cities will step up - to encourage manufacturers.
Mayk - question via email: Is there a new model for development?

Barbetta - 
  • the new vision is to learn how to diversity - work on our sports, tourism, redevelopment. We have to be progressive, cutting edge.
  • The film industry has recognized this area has great locations. But they say, to make a movie, you have to have a sound stage - the studio where you can create sets for indoor shots. That's what we don't have here. We at Ringling also need it for our filmmaking program. We're looking at finding ways to partner - create a soundstage that meets our educational needs, but also to create an opportunity for filmmaking here. Need building, land - 

Mayk - how much?

Thompson - Around $2 to $5 million.

Speaker in audience - Film and entertainment - great way to keep our younger people here.

Arthur Gilford USF -
  • Sarasota Manatee USF - one thing Sarasota needs to pitch - you are educationally an enormously rich area. Given this population, you have more to offer here than Hillsborough, which is considerably larger. Need to promote this more.

Jim Ley

  • Dichotomy - you need young hip people on the design side - but older people are still going to come here. Need to invest in downtown redevelopment - a place for people who want to do something after 9 at night. Constant dichotomy - stand back and ask why is it happening? Is it happening for a positive reason?

You guys hear all the time: I'm for economic development, but not when it intrudes on my lifestyle.

Nora Patterson -

  • We hear that quite a bit. We try to see it from the perspective of the folks who tell us why it's bad, and try to create conditions and compromises so that the development can happen, and people feel that their concerns were dealt with.

  • We're down to 400 housing permits a year - excess development is not going to be a problem in our working lives. 

Katz (in audience - sorry, didn't get entire name)
  • Sarasota is a special place - we have some treasures - vital main streets in Sarasota , Venice - infill sites have diversity - mix of uses. We looked at the financial contribution of mixed use development - they pay their way. Contribute both to financial underpinning and quality of life.
  • Also, we assume people make rational decisions with economic planning. I'm from California - enormous center of entrepreneurs - not because of tax incentives, but because it's a cool place to live. We need to create a cool place to live.
Thompson -
  • that's why it's all about design - about how a community feels.
Barbetta - Design, education, marine science, "corvette walkers" - lots of different kinds of jobs.

Patterson - lawyers, doctors, accountants - also needed by our population.

Salvador - We think the 700 megawatts can bring thousands of jobs. We're competing with other states.

Question from audience: How do you keep the jobs local? As opposed to having a company come in with its own employees.

Ley - best way is to have an educated workforce. That's "a core fundamental"

Mayk: Wishlist question - if 100 milllion were given to the government, no strings, what would be the top 5 projects to fund?

Hudgins - Soundstage

Neal - Honore project, other infrastructure projects

Salvador - incentives to lure big industrial companies.

Grimes - Two things:  a fund to provide technical expertise for people who's got a great idea for starting a business. Second, put it into the arts. Establish an international reputation in the arts.

Barbetta - Arts - Soundstage. Youth sports. Infrastructure. Revolving fund help homeowners retrofit their homes, make them more energy efficient.

Thompson - Soundstage and Arts, and a quasi venture cap fund to help fund some of these great ideas - aging institute, creativity institute - to make those kinds of things happen.

Ley - Venture Capital, temporary wage assistance, subsidies.

Patterson - Transportation system, Make arts world famous, additional sports facilities.


(Blogger's Note: Live Blogging  - recording a conversation in real time - is an inexact science. Useful until a transcript becomes available. There will be things mistyped, misheard, but the hope is that it provides a sense of the exchange, as it happened.)

Live stream of Sarasota Economic Recovery Forum Starting Now



Below is the conclusion to Prof. Grimes' study of the economic outlook for Sarasota:

Sarasota County’s economy has entered its worst economic episode in memory. The unemployment rate in the county, which historically has been below the national average, now exceeds the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole, and it’s expected to get worse before improving slightly in the second half of 2010.

The county’s economic troubles can be traced to the construction-and-real-estate-related boom between 1995 and 2005, which inevitably has led to a construction-and-real-estaterelated bust. The nation has followed a similar path, but the amplitude of both the boom and the bust has been much greater in Sarasota. We anticipate that there will continue to be job losses in Sarasota County in 2009 and 2010, but the losses in 2010 will be minimal, partly because we have assumed that the much-discussed economic stimulus package, especially its infrastructure spending portion, will mitigate some of the job losses in residential construction activity.
The good news is that there has been some employment growth in the high-wage, higheducational-attainment industries in the county, even during the first two years of employment decline. We expect that employment will continue to grow in these industries (health care, professional services, and corporate headquarters) over the next two years, but that these gains will be too small to overcome the job losses resulting from the construction bust and the weak economy overall. Job opportunities for people with relatively low levels of educational attainment will be scarce.
We are forecasting that the unemployment rate in the county will continue to increase through the first half of 2010, when it will peak at 9.3 percent, after which it will begin to drift down slowly.
The county has some great assets to promote future economic development. These include its natural beauty and weather, its recreational opportunities, and its arts community. There is already a sizable and reasonably healthy white-collar employment base in the county. These assets are a magnet to attract up-and-coming industries.
Among such opportunities is a group not usually thought of as an industry, that is, affluent retirees. It is fortunate that so many of them have gravitated here on their own, but there should be no slacking off of efforts to keep them coming.
At the same time, it is important to recognize the county’s liabilities, especially the fact that it is geographically isolated from most of the country. This will make it difficult to attract manufacturing companies to this area, an observation supported by Sarasota’s very low share of manufacturing employment that is not related to construction. In fact, it would be difficult to imagine a less geographically hospitable place for manufacturing than coastal southern Florida, except for Alaska and Hawaii. Economic development efforts should be directed elsewhere.
The most important factor in determining any area’s economic prosperity, at least as measured by the income of its residents, is the level of educational attainment of its work force. Sarasota County needs to become single-minded in its efforts to attract highly educated residents and the industries that seek to employ them. We believe Sarasota has the assets to do so.

Some responses to questions about the Forum

The first set of questions have been answered by the county prior to the Forum. The relevant answer is beneath each question below:
1. How was the panel composed? I.e., who decided whom to invite?

The forum panel was planned by county, snn6 and H-T.
2. Was the EDC invited to participate in the Forum? If not, why not?
The EDC and CVB along with other community reps will be in attendance.
 3. & 4. Has Univ. of Michigan economist Donald Grimes (a panelist on the forum) done any work on Southwest Florida that we can access? If so, you have a link or reference?
Don Grimes research is posted on scgov at -


Prof. Grimes' research as posted on the county site consists of a pdf file: http://www.scgov.net/Recovery/documents/SarasotaOutlook2009Jan13.pdf

and a power point set of slides that goes with it:

A few questions for the Economic Recovery Forum

We'll post some potentially useful questions about the Forum and for Forum panelists here as we get them. Here are a few preparatory inquiries:

  1. How was the panel composed? I.e., who decided whom to invite?
  2. Was the EDC invited to participate in the Forum? If not, why not?
  3. Has Univ. of Michigan economist Donald Grimes (a panelist on the forum) done any work on Southwest Florida that we can access? 
  4. If so, you have a link or reference?

Context: Sarasota Employment and Wages by Industry

Click on image to enlarge:

via Enterprise Florida

Grimes on bright spots for Michigan

University of Michigan economist Donald Grimes will be on this afternoon's Economic Recovery Forum panel in Sarasota. Here he is interviewed on hopeful sectors for Michigan in the current downturn:

Do you see any hopeful sectors for Michigan? You have previously talked about health care as strength in particular in Oakland County.
There's an amazing number of hopeful sectors actually in Michigan. As part of the study with the Research Seminar for Quantitative Economics that I was involved in, I believe we found 280 private-sector industries that between 2002 and 2007 actually grew faster in terms of employment growth in Michigan than they did nationally. That's a staggering number I never would have expected. Health care was one of the aggregate industry groups. There was also some that were in medical product manufacturing, pharmaceutical product manufacturing, agricultural and foodstuff manufacturing. It was in a wide variety of industries. Even semiconductors in Michigan were doing better than they were nationally.

Can the Arts replace Construction as an Economic Engine in Sarasota?

From the HT:
Among the participants is University of Michigan economist Don Grimes, who warned local officials early last year that the construction industry would never again become Sarasota County's dominant economic force. Grimes suggested local governments and the business community concentrate on developing other promising sectors, such as the arts.   

Questions abound: How do the Arts generate wide employment? What sort of jobs would become possible? Does the success of an arts-driven economy depend upon the quality of the art? If so, how does a locality ensure quality in its arts? How much of a role does marketing play in the image of a community as a "happening" place in the Arts? How does the Sarasota EDC (Economic Development Corporation) fit in?

For reference, here's a community profile of Sarasota County, with an employment breakdown by industry, provided by the EDC.

Every area bank lost in 2009

Recession took its toll on local institutions in 2009

Year-end financial reports available Monday show that every bank based in Sarasota, Manatee or Charlotte counties posted a loss last year.

Live blogging here today

Feel free to drop by and comment, or follow on Twitter:
SARASOTA - Business executives, academics and government officials will discuss strategies for helping the local economy recover in a 90-minute forum airing live Tuesday.
The forum, titled "From Recession to Recovery," starts at 4 p.m. It can be seen on Sarasota County Access TV, carried on Comcast 19 and Verizon 32, and via live streaming on the county's Web site, www.scgov.net.
more here.