Tuesday, February 2, 2010

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.)

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