NORTH PORT – North Port likes the way Sarasota County's public-private partnership to promote economic development is going and agreed this week to a new deal to keep the effort going.
The North Port City Commission unanimously approved a new agreement with the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County Tuesday night. The board commended the EDC, which has changed the way it does business since the COVID-19 pandemic from marketing the area to potential businesses to acting as a concierge service for prospective companies.
“The face of the EDC has changed; this is a great team,” said City Commissioner Jill Luke. “The whole organization has improved.”
Lisa Krouse, president and CEO of the EDC, and Erin Silk, the group's vice president of Business Development Services, gave the commission an overview of the organization's goals under its $1.6 million budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
The agency receives 36% of its funding from local governments and 64% from the private sector. Much of the funding come from business licensing fees, investors and a $1 per capita contribution from Sarasota County and the municipalities of Longboat Key, North Port, Sarasota and Venice.
At $78,129, North Port’s 2023 contribution is second behind Sarasota County, which would give the EDC $277,128 for the upcoming budget year.
Silk cited recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data that showed the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton metropolitan service area added 22,000 new jobs from March 2021 to March 2022. That 7.1% growth rate was tops among midsize metros.
Between 2019 and 2022 the growth rate was the fourth-highest for all metros Silk noted.
Before COVID, the EDC marketed Sarasota and its communities, Silk said. Subsequently, it transformed to offering concierge services to prospective businesses ranging from site selection help to navigating the local business permitting process.
While educating potential employers who may have heard about Sarasota or Siesta Key, the EDC broadens their outlook to include areas such as North Port – which embraced the findings of an economic feasibility study by Camoin Associates. That study in 2021 prompted the city to act on extending water and sewer to targeted areas of the city, including Panacea, north of the Toledo Blade Boulevard exit off of Interstate 75 to it more desirable to employers.
In North Port, the EDC is working with businesses on nine new projects, which would attract 1,001 new jobs and an investment of $33 million, and one retention project that represents 70 jobs and a $500,000 investment.
Sarasota County is the next local government that must sign off on a new EDC agreement.
In other action
Also on Tuesday, the City Commission:
• Heard an update from Sarasota County Commissioner Ron Cutsinger, who noted that the Legacy Trail extension to North Port could open with a ribbon cutting in late summer or early fall. He also noted that the county’s new Mobility on Demand program has increased ridership and cut costs in half.
• Approved construction of a nature trail on the east side of the Myakkahatchee Creek Park. The trail, from Appomattox Drive to Price Boulevard, is projected to cost about $1.8 million and will be financed by park impact fees.
Earle Kimel primarily covers south Sarasota County for the Herald-Tribune and can be reached at email@example.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription to the Herald-Tribune.
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: North Port City Commission approves new economic development agreement