At its founding in the 1800s, the City of Palmetto was a center of commerce for shipping interests plying the Manatee River to distribute agricultural products.
Today, the city north of the river is being discovered again by businesses of quite a different sort.
It Works Global, an international direct sales company that moved to the Bradenton area in 2011, has purchased the Riverside Plaza property in Palmetto for a new, larger headquarters. The company has 59 employees.
An existing business, Electra Health Club & Spa, plans to expand in the same district and add residential units. Internationally known artist Alexander Berne is beginning renovation of the historic theater building on Old Main Street. Manatee County Rural Health Services will employ 80 in its new Palmetto headquarters.
These projects -- and others in the pipeline -- do more than boost the local economy through capital investment and job creation. They demonstrate that Palmetto is a viable location for business in the Tampa Bay region. The move by It Works, in particular, proves that companies with global markets view Palmetto as a desirable home base.
"Palmetto offers value-priced real estate for businesses, an array of local incentives second to none in our region, and a get-it-done attitude among our staff that businesses can rely on when they commit to growing here," said Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant.
The mayor and Jeff Burton, director of the city's Community Redevelopment Agency, spearhead the city's revitalization efforts and personally worked with businesses to accelerate location and expansion projects. The city also is aggressively tackling infrastructure improvements -- from beautification to parks to stormwater drainage -- to create a more sustainable and desirable community. Palmetto has won more than $6 million in grants to help fund ongoing improvements.
In addition, the city is collaborating like never before with Manatee County Government and the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. to boost the local economy through redevelopment and strategic attraction of businesses.
"We aren't looking to recruit just any business," Burton said. "We have a layered, strategic approach to the types of businesses that would be suitable for various employment centers in the city."
Attracting It Works' headquarters was a coup, Bryant said. The EDC had worked with the company on its original move to
Manatee County and was helping It Works find a spot to grow. New cooperation between the city and EDC made the EDC aware of the Riverside Plaza property and the helpful incentives the city offers.
Palmetto's incentive package is one of the most robust in Florida. Depending on where a business locates in the city, various cost-saving opportunities may apply.
The qualifications vary for different programs, but most require a business to perform before it receives any benefit in the form of cash or tax rebates.
"Incentives allow us to get a second look from businesses that might not have thought of Palmetto," Burton said. "The savings to a business can help with costs of building or renovating a facility, or recruiting and training employees."
Beyond the economics, though, Palmetto offers something to businesses that some other locations may not be able to match.
"We make a real effort to connect businesses to the community," Bryant said. "We offer them a hometown."
Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer of the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (www.thinkbradentonarea.com), can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 941-748-4842, ext. 128.