Hundreds of business movers and shakers who knew little to nothing about greater Lake Wales just a few weeks ago now have our great community on their radar.
The Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council (EDC) had a significant presence May 22-15 during the RECon 2016, the world’s largest annual trade show for retail real estate professionals, and the mission was simple and straightforward: Showcase Lake Wales to key people who make important decisions about where to start or expand their businesses.
Put on by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), RECon 2016 took up every hall in the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. It featured more than 1,000 exhibitors and more than 36,000 attendees. Working along with me at our Lake Wales Chamber-EDC booth were EDC Chairman David Fisher (of Peterson & Myers, PA) and his wife, Mary Margaret Fisher. There was a lot of activity at the booth; we spoke with literally hundreds of people, seeking to:
- Expose and market of business-friendly Lake Wales for near- and long-term economic development.
- Maintain relationships with real estate broker/developers we met during our first RECon visit last year.
- Start new business relationships.
- Meet with business site-selection consultants.
- Make contacts with real estate company executives and directors.
- Meet with retailers who might find Lake Wales to be a good fit for their growing enterprises.
Lake Wales was one only three to four Florida cities represented at RECon this year, but several Florida-based developers and commercial/retail real estate brokers were there. We met with a couple of retail groups and a couple of hotel developers who very much would like to be a part of the burgeoning Central Florida attraction and tourism market. (The quickly expanding Legoland Florida Resort/Merlin Entertainments Inc. operations in Polk and Orange counties have the attention of a lot of people in the hospitality, accommodations, and retail industries.)
As the biggest international retail show of the year, RECon is a great deal-making venue and opportunity for developers, brokers, cities, retailers, and financiers. In addition to the exhibit booths, the trade show also features educational sessions, speakers, and special retail-type events. The Lake Wales Chamber-EDC wasn’t there for the side events; we were there just to display and shine the light on greater Lake Wales as a prime location for business development. Attendance at a show like RECon often doesn’t bring immediate results. We at the Chamber-EDC keep things in perspective and figure on our convention investment and presence there having a long-term kind of payback. You go there with the goal of sowing a lot of seeds and trusting that some of some of them will bring forth good economic development fruit at some point in the future.
If the Fishers and I had to evaluate the Chamber-EDC’s participation in RECon by the number of seeds we planted, we’d have to say it was a success. We visited with a constant stream of people at the booth, had several positive side visits with people representing a variety of business sectors, and distributed all of the Lake Wales marketing literature and giveaways we brought with us.
The whole mission at RECon 2016 was Lake Wales exposure. When the trade show was over for the Lake Wales Chamber-EDC, it was mission accomplished.