With Manatee County’s major tourism and shopping corridors, coupled with its location between St. Petersburg and Sarasota, the county has an incredible opportunity when it comes to redevelopment, according to a county official.
Geri Lopez, the county’s redevelopment and economic opportunity director, presented her department’s vision for building on the county’s assets to encourage redevelopment in the Southwest District in the coming year. This was the first budget presentation for the department, which was created last October.
“It is focusing on our underperforming areas,” she said. “It helps to accelerate economic growth, private investment and area competitiveness. It creates that catalyst to push and/or establish the market in an unknown area.”
With nearly $5 million available in reserves for catalytic projects and public-private partnerships, Manatee County needs to set the stage to attract the right partners while marketing the county’s assets, Lopez said.
“Our opportunities are great,” she said. “We need to be able to think of it wisely to have that pot to be able to commit to redevelopment and some of these projects. ...These redevelopment projects can have an exponential impact on the tax base, which helps to build that bigger pot of funds.”
Lopez was one of the department directors on Thursday who still had to go through their department’s budgets with the county commission. The commission will adopt the fiscal year 2018 budget in September.
As the redevelopment and economic opportunity department enters its second year, next steps include identifying the market, sites, incentives and infrastructure projects, according to Thursday’s presentation.
“We are going to need every penny of it,” Lopez said of the approximately $4.8 million. “It gives the flexibility to respond to those key opportunities to leverage those private dollars.”
Commissioner Robin DiSabatino said the county needs to do a really good marketing campaign to get the word out.
“We can’t keep this the best kept secret in Manatee County,” she said. “We need to get our secret out.”
For redevelopment to take place, it will take more than just the government, Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said.
“Without the community’s help and development and others, we aren’t going to be able to accomplish it,” she said.
After Lopez’s presentation, the commission heard from Rodney Barnes, the county’s human resources director, about the continued workforce challenges.
While the average turnover rate for the county is about 16 percent annually, millennials, who make up 23 percent of the county workforce, make up 40 percent of the turnover, according to Barnes.
“The behavior of younger workforce is adding another pressure point to whole equation because of rate they turnover,” he said.
Barnes asked the commission to “make an investment in those people that are making things happen here in Manatee County.”
“Our people are our greatest asset,” he said. “They are doing the work that matters around here.”