I like to think of myself as an optimist. This is especially true in this column space, where I share the progress and victories of the Lake Wales Area Economic Development Council. And while the drive for success and forward momentum are important, I’m also a firm believer in the basics. Revisiting the fundamentals that have helped shape our growth can remind us how far we’ve come and how we’ve done it.
The EDC considers many factors when determining what will lift the greater Lake Wales area to the next level. What exactly makes a city a great place to live and do business? Is it an excellent educational system? Great parks and recreational areas? New business opportunities? Availability to new industries? If this were a test, the answer would be D; all of the above.
It takes work, time, strategy, and manpower to collect the puzzle pieces and fit them all together to create the whole picture of a city teeming with growth and opportunity. That is why the Lake Wales Area Economic Development Council is so important.
The Lake Wales Area EDC responds to leads, finds prospects for vacant properties, and addresses requests for information. All this is done while keeping in mind the goals of business retention, expansion, and attraction of everything from residential to industrial businesses.
Before 2013, the City of Lake Wales was responsible in-house for the various responsibilities of economic development with the municipal government. However, concerns, namely confidentiality, drove the city to form a joint Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council. The chamber and EDC raise private funds from events and economic partners.
Companies that invest at least $2,500 per year become Partners and hold a seat on the Economic Development Council Board. Companies that invest at least $5,000 per year make up the President’s Circle. These partners get a seat on the board of the EDC as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
What’s In It for the Companies?
Partner companies, or investors as they are called, get involved for various reasons. Obviously, investing in the Lake Wales Economic Development Council increases visibility and business opportunities in the area. That, in turn, helps businesses expand their own base.
Sometimes, the incentives can be political. Partners may want a liaison in city government. So they get a seat at the table with key decision-makers of the city. For example, they can go directly to meetings and talk about infrastructure issues the city can solve or legislation the chamber and EDC can weigh-in on.
Turning the Gears
Each community’s economic development council has different goals. At the moment, our top priority is improving quality of life, which means new residential options, social and cultural amenities, new commercial and industrial jobs, and better opportunities for the greater Lake Wales area.
That is the overarching goal, at least.
But underneath that umbrella are several focal points we take into consideration for the future of our city.
Among those, we look to attract new businesses and jobs and to increase educational opportunities across the board. We look for the amenities that add to residents’ quality of life, like parks, and upgraded infrastructure for expanded residential and commercial development.
At this point, perhaps our biggest focus is retail opportunities and the continued buildout of the Lake Wales Commerce and Technology Park.
Lake Wales has a bright future, and we are here to make sure of that.