When you take some time to think about the work of effective and sustained economic development, it doesn’t take long to realize that one of its chief goals, if not thechief goal, is to improve the quality of life — for everyone.
That’s usually what happens when an existing business expands operations, a compatible new business or industry comes to the town, or a combination of the two. Job opportunities increase, higher-wage jobs become available, families have more disposable income, the tax base expands, and government can more easily improve essential services and build on the recreational and leisure services already in place. Economic development done right invites
more economic development, and the cycle of prosperity repeats itself.
But what about the local quality of life as it measures now? Without a doubt, it’s a topic of conversation when the team at the Lake Wales Economic Development Council launches a business recruitment effort. It’s a topic that comes up when the team fields questions from companies that are giving the greater Lake Wales area some consideration as a potential business location. “What’s the quality of life there? What does the area have to offer for our company and its owners, managers, supervisors, and employees?”
Just within the Lake Wales EDC’s immediate sphere of operation and concentration, the short and honest answer is that the area offers a lot. Taking more of a regional approach, as the EDC team often does, the answer is “A lot and so much more.”
Think about it: Our location in southeast Polk County is a huge advantage for us. That would be those of us who already work and live here and for those of us in the business of economic development who want to see more people working and living here. Consider just a few of the many positives about Lake Wales — the positives we gladly pitch to site-selection personnel for prospective new businesses:
- Generally, it’s quiet, peaceful, and relaxed here, minus the big-city crime and congestion.
- The tax rates are low for everyone, the financial incentives for new businesses are plentiful, and the political environment for economic development is positive at every level of government.
- The public and private schools are an asset, with business training programs in the vocational-technical and post-secondary institutions expanding with each passing year.
- It’s a nature lover’s delight. Bok Tower, with its beautiful surrounding gardens, is a majestic focal point for Lake Wales, but close by we also find the Lake Wales Ridge National Wildlife Refuge, Tiger Creek Preserve, nature trails, parks, camping sites, and bird-watching areas.
- It’s a sportsman’s paradise, with so many nearby places to enjoy boating, fishing and hunting.
- For entertainment and culture, many area public and private organizations offer community theater productions; art centers, shows, and festivals; dance recitals; and music concerts and reviews.
- Featuring Legoland Florida just a few minutes away and Walt Disney World less than an hour up the highway, theme park adventures are close at hand.
- The variety of shopping and dining opportunities is large and ever expanding.
- For those who like the occasional day or night trip to more metropolitan areas, Orlando, Tampa, and St. Petersburg aren’t far away.
- It’s just an hour and a half to Florida’s east or west coast, a great advantage for anyone who likes to hit the beach, go saltwater fishing, or simply get out and explore.
- And, for anyone who wants to travel beyond the borders of Florida, two of the nation’s finest international airports are located right here in Central Florida — one in Orlando and the other in Tampa.
The list of positives about greater Lake Wales could go on, but the message presented here with just a few examples is a great and compelling one: In the quality-of-life arena, Lake Wales stacks up with well — and often quite better — with any other community its size and with some even larger.