Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Business leaders make Lee County pitch

By Tim Engstrom • • January 29, 2011

Businesses leaders will pitch Lee County’s economic attributes in a new marketing campaign to encourage others to expand or locate here.

Building on 2010’s “Together, We Mean Business” campaign, the new theme is “We Chose Lee County” and features executives extolling the area.

The testimonials of existing businesses is effective in attracting others and it reflects local priorities, said Jim Moore, executive director of the Lee County Economic Development Office.

“The business that is here is the most important business to Lee County,” Moore said. “It always has been and it always will be, but those businesses can help us grow.”

Moore outlined the campaign Friday at the Horizon Council Annual Meeting at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre in Fort Myers.

The Horizon Council includes business leaders and government representatives who advise Lee County commissioners on economic development issues.

The group celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.

The marketing campaign, which features print ads and videos, features Edmundo Muniz, chief executive officer of Tigris Pharmaceuticals in Bonita Springs; Bob Simpson, CEO of LeeSar; Daniel Dosoretz, founder of 21st Century Oncology and others.

Just this week, the economic development office announced an incentive agreement with 21st Century Oncology that will allow the company to earn up to $300,000 in state and local money to hire up to 40 additional employees.

That agreement was one of 10 announced this year, resulting in commitments for 941 new jobs, Moore said.

At least four more are in the pipeline, Moore said, and the marketing effort should attract more.

The campaign, like all local economic development marketing efforts, will be paid for by local business donations.

Lee businesses already have pledged $268,000 for 2011 efforts, more than 77 percent of the goal for the year, said Wayne Kirkwood, the new chairman of the Horizon Council.

The Horizon Foundation — the council’s fundraising arm — has set $350,000 as its goal for 2011, up from $336,705 last year.

That commitment demonstrates how Lee County works together to succeed, said Kirkwood, who is also chief executive officer of Kirkwood Electric in Cape Coral.

“As Lee County, we can become a force to compete nationally and internationally and win,” Kirkwood said at the meeting.

Kirkwood called 2011 “the year of recovery” and congratulated almost 400 business leaders in attendance for their part.

“If you are in this room, you are a survivor of the single worst economic storm this county has ever seen,” Kirkwood said.

Those donations are impressive in still-challenging economic times, said Ryan Goldberg, local market president for Regions Bank.

“It’s a good indicator of the commitment to economic development,” Goldberg said.

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