North Port, Florida, Continues to Achieve!
10 Mar, 2014By: Juli Anne Patty
Like many of America’s great success stories, North Port, Florida, is a self-made city. In the early ‘80s the City featured a sky dotted with hot air balloons, since its woods and lack of power lines made it an ideal balloon-launching site. In that picturesque wilderness, the City’s early leaders saw the potential of a great city, and with the vision and strategy that North Port has become known for, that’s exactly what they created.
“When I came here in 1961, the population was 12,000,” said Marshall Grove, author of “Out of the Wilderness, a history of North Port.” As development began, a lot of other businesses became attracted to the area. We’re still growing and businesses continue to come all the time. In fact, North Port is one of the fastest-growing and largest cities in Florida, in both population and landmass. If you own property, that’s a pretty good thing. Prices jumped and are continuing to climb.”
The City with a Plan
Continuous achievement is only possible with a strong vision and flexibility, and that’s one of North Port’s secrets. North Port is always reviewing its goals, objectives and strategies with an eye toward adapting to rapid change and a commitment to making the city more vibrant and attractive. As new businesses locate to the city and existing companies seek to expand, North Port endeavors to help these firms obtain access to capital, find more customers and get the talent they need for their workforce.
“We believe North Port's policies allow smaller businesses the leniency sometimes necessary to make it through the early stages of growth and expansion and there is much greater personal, direct access to city officials than you might find in larger cities,” said Jamie Lovern, founder and CEO of Lolablue. “Also, we feel we are in a prime position to enjoy all of the benefits the proposed Toledo Blade Corridor Vision Plan will have to offer since we are already located in that area. New infrastructure, increased visibility and various incentives will add a whole new level of attractiveness to potential new businesses and even to existing local businesses.”
In addition to the State of Florida's competitive incentive packages, and Sarasota County's economic development incentive program, North Port sports an 'open for business' attitude that is supported by a variety of programs and incentives designed to attract new business and development projects. A moratorium on impact fees, an ad valorem tax exemption program, technical assistance to small businesses and the ability to expedite plan reviews and permitting have combined to boost North Port's business-friendly reputation. Each of these inducements makes North Port a favorite home for emerging entrepreneurs and companies looking to locate to a community where their success is both nurtured and celebrated.
Kevin Harris, CEO of Hot Sauce Harry's, which sells custom-labeled hot sauces to a national market and Canada, credits a number of North Port advantages with his business’s ongoing success.
“Our company has grown, we believe, as a direct result of our location. We relocated to North Port three years ago after more than 15 years in Texas. North Port is conveniently located near many transportation hubs and right on the interstate system,” said Harris. “Even though we have only a few employees, the workforce is available and skilled. And the city can certainly boast a wonderful year-round climate.”
Another Successful Year
Bolstered by an improving economy and policies that promote economic growth, North Port, Florida, continues to be a city poised for new business and development opportunities. The growth of new commercial and residential development over the past year has realtors, business owners and developers bullish on the strong growth, led by smart strategic planning, in North Port.
Already the largest city in Sarasota County and within the North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota MSA, North Port is the community that is looked upon by many to lead the future growth of Southwest Florida. As business grows, so does North Port’s population, with the most recent count showing the City at nearly 60,000 residents.
North Port knows that expansion with a plan is the only way to achieve sustainable growth and retain the appealing character of its sought-after community. The City’s growing retail sector, for example, is beginning to spill over into its residential areas. Partnership and planning are the keys: the City and its residents work together with retail developers to accommodate neighborhood commercial uses that are not only compatible, but respect the character of North Port’s residential areas.
Sustainable growth also requires a focus on maintaining public infrastructure, which has and will continue to be a primary investment strategy for North Port. The City has invested nearly $1 billion over the past several years on infrastructure improvements, and North Port views this as an essential expenditure, crucial to attracting new businesses and residents and providing the city’s reliably high quality services. North Port’s residents clearly back the City’s commitment, as well, with voters approving a 2013 bond referendum to undertake $46 million in road improvements.
Small and Young …But Mighty
Youth has its advantages: fresh ideas, a forward-looking strategy and a smart, strong workforce, just to name a few. And North Port is a young city with a big plan. North Port is one of few cities its size that has devoted resources to market its assets and amenities. Its Strategic Marketing Plan, adopted in 2010, provides strategies and tactics to recruit and attract new business and development opportunities and to market the City’s stunning natural resources and residential areas.
Even as the city and its businesses expand, North Port also retains its small-town approach, and that means personal attention.
“Our experience with the city has been very positive,” says Jonathan Adams, COO of the Adams Group, manufacturer and installer of interior architectural casework. “The economic development team is always lending an ear to try to help us, and they’ve been wonderful to work with. We typically meet with them, and sometimes even the city manager, on a quarterly basis about what’s going on with the city and how they can help us. They know how important it is when businesses succeed in North Port, and we have a very good cooperation and synergy with them."
Staying on Top
Education is the key to future growth and maintaining a powerful workforce. That’s why North Port ensures that its educational opportunities are both accessible and excellent. The Sarasota public schools consistently rank among the top in the State. And the School District, in collaboration with Sarasota County, the City of North Port and surrounding communities, is looking to develop new opportunities for vocational and technical training in an effort to offer more educational options to school-age students, the underemployed, the unemployed and those seeking new career options.
Post-secondary education is available in the City and throughout the region with institutions such as the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, State College of Florida, Edison State College and Florida Gulf Coast University located just a short drive from North Port.
“A great benefit of being in North Port is our ability to recruit talent to an area where they would want to live,” said Jeffrey King, president, King Plastic Corporation. “With the quality of life being so important to people these days, it helps when your facility is in a great location such as North Port.”
What’s more, North Port is part of a regional economic engine that fuels sustainable growth.
“We work to identify and address issues that affect economic development in the region, influencing policy decisions to help companies grow,” said Stuart Rogel, president and CEO, Tampa Bay Partnership. “With the growth it’s experienced over the last 10 years, North Port is playing a more significant role, from a population and economic development perspective, as it continues to grow in our region.”
North Port, Florida, is more than just a city of dreams; it’s a city where people make their dreams come true. With the infrastructure, planning and city support to bolster any business that’s ready to get growing, North Port is ready to be the city of your future.