SARASOTA COUNTY -- Sarasota County received a Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award for Nathan Benderson Park in the category of public-private partnerships for communities with populations of 200,000 to 500,000 from the International Economic Development Council.
"Receiving this award means that our economic development efforts in Sarasota County are relevant," said Jeff Maultsby, director of Sarasota County Business and Economic Development. Maultsby and Paul Blackketter, president and chief operating officer of the Sun Coast Aquatic Nature Center Association, accepted the honor at an awards ceremony in Philadelphia.
The council's Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world's best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year's most influential leaders, according to an IEDC spokesperson. The awards honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban and rural communities.
"The Excellence in Economic Development Award recognizes Sarasota County as being one of the leading organizations in the industry for innovation, creativity and successful strategies," said Paul Krutko, IEDC chair. "These awards are meant to honor the organizations and individuals who are dedicated to making a positive change in their communities."
Krutko said that the collaboration provides "creative solutions and inventive ideas, and offers other regions a wonderful example to learn and benefit from. The award represents an acknowledgment and appreciation for Sarasota County's dedication to continuous growth within itself, as well as improving the industry overall."
Nathan Benderson Park is located at the southwest quadrant of the I-75 and University Parkway intersection and is adjacent to the University Town Center project owned by Benderson
In the early 1990s, Sarasota County purchased the property, which was then an unimproved borrow-pit lake used by local fishermen. The park is now in the process of a transformation into a 600-acre regional park to include a world-class rowing venue, which was recently announced as the site for the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Through a variety of public and private partnerships, this park is being developed at a price tag of $24.5 million, mostly from Tourist Development Tax revenue.
The project is a representation of a partnership that includes the county, state, a developer, the local economic development corporation, recreation experts, schools, rowing clubs and local residents, said Maultsby.
"It was definitely a team effort to complete our application for Nathan Benderson Park. The process, which took a few weeks, involved collaboration among several county departments," said Maultsby. "It was truly an honor for our hard work and dedication to be recognized at this high of a level on an international platform."
The completion of the park project, tentatively scheduled for December 2014, will include a 2,000-meter sprint course and a 30-acre regatta center. It is designed to be a regional attraction with opportunities to significantly impact the economic development of Sarasota and Manatee counties, as well as the entire southwest Florida region.