If you spend any time at all thinking about greater Lake Wales, you almost have to conclude that there’s really no other place quite like it. The natural resources and scenic beauty — from the rolling hills of the Florida Ridge to the bass-filled lakes to the flatland “scrub” ecosystems — the subtropical climate, the rich historical heritage, the cultural and entertainment choices, the tourism and sight-seeing options, the top-tier education system, and the growing economic diversity combine to make the area quite unique — and quite special.
The quality of life in the Lake Wales area and in Polk County is excellent. It’s a point the Lake Wales Economic Development Council team can and does make daily. It’s a fact that helps us greatly in our exciting work to share the Lake Wales story and attract new industry, businesses, and jobs to this close-to-almost-everything location.
Not only is the Lake Wales area a quality place to live and work, it’s an active place. Consider just a few of the things going on and coming up.
• The volunteers behind Main Street Lake Wales, recognized as one of Florida’s first Main Street programs, are ramping up their efforts to “re-imagine” the city’s historic downtown area and make it an even more lively place to do business and have some family-friendly fun. Led by board President Erika Schindler, the owner of The Oasis Spa, the Main Street member-partners are seeking collectively to be a more active and stronger voice for downtown growth, and the Lake Wales EDC supports that activity. The EDC board is a big proponent of an active Main Street organization and encourages more businesses and individuals to get involved. For details, visit http://lwmainstreet.com.
• With Lake Wales Main Street as a partner and with the Lake Wales EDC as a supporter, the Lake Wales Arts Council is making plans for the big Make It Magical holiday event on Dec. 9, from 4 to 9 p.m., in the Downtown Marketplace. Featuring a theme of “Christmas Around the World,” the event will feature a decorated downtown; Christmas treats, music, and vendors; and a special visit by Santa Claus. For details, go to http://lakewalesartscouncil.org/makeitmagical/.
• In the world of entertainment, a huge event is the CountryFlo Music and Camping Festival, coming up Nov. 4 and 5 at the newly renovated 420-acre Triple Canopy Ranch in Lake Wales. The festival will feature four stages and more than 30 artists, including Jana Kramer, Chris Stapleton, Thomas Rhett, Chris Janson, Old Dominion, A Thousand Horses, Joe Nichols,Randy Houser, Blackbird Anthem, Maggie Rose, and Marty Stuart. For details, including ticket information, visit http://countryflo.com.
Organizations like Main Street Lake Wales and the Lake Wales Arts Council, venues like the Lake Wales Downtown Marketplace and Triple Canopy Ranch, and events like Make It Magical and the CountryFlo festival are tremendous assets in the cause of broader and sustained economic development in and around Lake Wales. They’re great for attracting people and economic activity to Lake Wales, they’re great for showcasing to visitors — and even the city’s younger set — what the area has to offer as a place to live and raise a family; and they’re great for keeping local folks close to home for their shopping, dining, and entertainment enjoyment.
Importantly, enhancements like these to the already-excellent quality of life in greater Lake Wales are helpful in convincing people who accept newly created jobs here to live here as well.
In economic development, we’re always grateful for the “home-run” event — the news that a company is coming to town with plans to establish a large operation and create 500 to 1,000 jobs — but we’re grateful, too, for the singles, doubles, and triples of economic development. These include creating the conditions for local population growth that closely matches or even exceeds local job growth. When people choose both to work here and live here, they’re more likely to spend their money here. When that happens, local businesses prosper, more jobs are created, the overall economy is bolstered, and the economic development cycle repeats itself.