Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 9:00am

The Lake County Marketing Plan

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The Lake County Marketing Plan
October 27, 2009

 “Want to Live in Florida?  Now is the Time, and Lake County is the Place!

    The Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C. marketing department has developed a marketing plan that if adopted, Lake County and local city governments could act as the catalyst for moving the area out of the worse economic decline since The Great Depression.  A foolish person does the same thing everyday with the expectation of a different result, and local governments need to accept the fact that their plans and strategies are failing.  There is no doubt about it on one point; no matter your political leanings, we must reverse this area’s economic direction and 12.3% unemployment; action is needed.

The five points to our new Lake County Marketing Plan are changing your attitude; selling your strengths; pricing to realities; encouraging reinvestment and revitalization; and keeping what you’ve got.  Each one of these aspects is critical if a well rounded comprehensive marketing strategy is to be successful.

Changing Your Attitude

It is time for every politician in Lake County to abandon their thoughts and opinions about growth from 2003-2006.  Those days are gone and probably will not return during our lifetime.  There is not a bank in America today that will lend money for development in Florida, or most other places, and the sting of this turndown has ruined a generation of potential real estate investors.  Lake County must understand that the pendulum has swung to the other side, and as a County, what little investment in real estate and business that is out in the open market must be fought for.

Most economists are warning against much higher inflation rates in the future.  Lake County must have growth to cover the inflation that is about to hit government costs, or the cities and counties will begin to decay.  A “change in attitude” to embrace growth in all areas is needed.  We encourage County and city governments in an area to pass resolutions embracing the need for growth.  A clear, concise message must be sent out to the business community regionally and nationally that Lake County and its cities are open for business.  After the resolutions are passed and praised, then it’s time for action.

Selling Your Strengths

For those who have been in the business of selling products, you know that occasionally you run across a “dog” item (deleted and obsolete good) that no one wants.  The selling of Lake County, Florida is probably the easiest sell in America, and right now it’s on a “blue light special”.  Think about how easy it must be to sell a set of real 1-carat gold diamond earrings for 60% off the price; that is the situation Lake County is in today.

Our marketing strategy is simple:  Want to live in Florida? Now is the time and Lake County is the place!  Real salespeople know to make a sale – you have to push the benefits of your product and just look at the great benefits of living in Lake County:

  • You’re less than 30 minutes from the world’s largest tourist destination, Orlando Florida.
  • Lake County is dead center in the sports capital of America, from professional football and basketball teams to the greatest college sports programs in the Country.
  • Lake County’s front porch is the most famous beach in America, which hosts the great American race, The Daytona 500.
  • The back porch faces one of nature’s greatest beauties, the Ocala National Forest.
  • Lake County is a mecca for quality of life with its beautiful natural resources.
  • Lake-Sumter Community College is one of the best community colleges in Florida and local schools are meeting the educational requirements of a new generation.
  • The safest place to be during hurricane season is right in Lake County, Florida; close enough to the beach to enjoy it, but far enough away to be safe.
  • Use both a younger family and older couple to discuss the advantages of the County to show both are welcome.
  • Allocate resources to tell this story regionally and throughout the State.

Lake County is a salesperson’s dream, and it is a shame that this great story is not being told properly.

Pricing to Realities

Most in government don’t understand the “free market” and fail to realize you cannot mandate companies to invest your area.  In the market today, the buyer is in total charge.  Buyers are dictating price, terms, and conditions because this world is full of eager sellers.

Lake County’s business and impact fees do not fit in the realities of today’s marketplace.  If tomorrow, General Electric began a search to locate a windmill manufacturing facility that would employ 500 people, they would be given the red carpet together with incentive treatment in most areas across the South.  There would be no impact fees, the State and County would offer between $600-$1,000 employment credit, and most would waive the majority of property taxes for a certain period.  Even in Florida, many counties have reduced, abandoned, or deferred impact fees to attract businesses.

Why have impact fees on any business if in order to attract them the fees must be waived?  One of the current targets in Lake County’s economic plan is medical technologies, but why would any bio-lab ever locate to Lake County if it has to pay $50,000 plus in impact fees?  In business, you generally get one shot to attract a customer, and those companies silly enough to post stupid prices will find silent cash registers.  For example, if tomorrow Publix were to put up a sign advertising chicken for $3 per pound and Winn Dixie had a sign up for 79-cents a pound, where would you stop to buy your next cookout meat?  Lake County needs to drop all impact fees on businesses and residences because the advertisement of these fees has been so negative that businesses, along with their people, are going elsewhere.  The bottom line is that you will never attract any business in Lake County if they have to pay these atrocious fees.  Why have them?

Encouraging Reinvestment and Revitalization

Lake County must address the vacant buildings and closed businesses scattered throughout the community.  These properties could be turned to advantages with any up-tick in the market based on the extended amount of time it takes to obtain a water runoff permit from St. Johns River Water Management for a new construction project.  There will be a window of 12-24 months in which businesses will be looking for properties to relocate to in Central Florida.  It is vital these properties are being marketed to ensure Lake County gets the business.

Lake County should set up a revitalization program, which first identifies any property of a closed business of more than 12 months.  A list should be made as targets for government economic developers.  These properties are the most vulnerable to decay, so special incentives should be offered to any business which relocates to them.  The County must reverse the trend of vacant properties by offering the following incentives:

·        Lake County should offer an incentive of $600 per full time worker for the first year on any business locating to a qualified vacant property.

·        No impact fees or building permit improvement fees should be assessed to any business that relocates to a qualified vacant property.

·        For the next four years, businesses who occupy qualified vacant properties would receive a 25% property tax credit.

·        Lake County should sponsor the tuition of any small business owner who locates to a qualified vacant property to attend the Business Development Program at Lake-Sumter Community College headed by Russ Sloan.  Successful small businesses must be the goal of everyone.

·        Local government should have big ribbon cutting ceremonies and publicity for any business that occupies an old vacant property.  Tout the success and revitalization.

Making old properties new again can change the complexion of Lake County.  Government should realize that business decay is a poisonous fungus that can take over and destroy a community.

Keep What You’ve Got

In our society, many moralists argue the root cause of many of our problems is a notion that everyone is always looking for the next best thing.  Currently, Lake County has adopted an economic development plan that completely ignores the cogs of economic development which has sustained thousands of jobs in the past.

The no-growth community in Lake County argues that we must abandon the old industries of the past for new ones of the future.  Our response is, “Why?” In the future, aren’t people going to need homes, drink orange juice, plant flowers, sod yards, need cement, drink bottled water, and visit tourist destinations?  The view put forth in Lake County’s economic plan is wrong because change is going to occur in economic development, but industries will remain the same.  Yes, the community needs to embrace these new jobs, but the potential new industries cannot replace the other industries of the past because of sheer size.

The new industries of the future should be used to enhance the current economic base, but to replace or abandon the things that work for Lake County is wrong.  The County must realize it is going to take an across the board strategy in all industries to remain viable so Lake County “must keep what its got”.  To accomplish this, local government should implement the following.

  • Lake County has great Chambers of Commerce and a real task force must be organized which identifies businesses that are contemplating relocating outside of Lake County.  The charge of this committee would be to find out why a business wants to leave and then develop a strategy with local government to prevent it.
  • Every government entity in Lake County should commit to a 15-month moratorium on imposing any new ordinance which has any impact on business.
  • There should be a complete stand down on all new ordinances and a thorough review of current ones to determine which ones need to be changed or removed.  Lake County should seek to be the most business friendly place in America by deregulation.
  • Business property values must be reassessed to the new realities of the marketplace to ensure existing business can compete.
  • Waive any impact fees and building fees for expansion or improvements to real property.  In addition, there should be a 72-hour turnaround commitment for business improvement building permits.

Lake County has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attracting new jobs with minimal success in the last three years.  In the last six months, almost 800 jobs have been relocated to other counties in the region.  Lake County must develop a real marketing strategy which stops the pick-pocketing of our local businesses.

Usually, Lake County pays thousands of dollars for some consultant group to come in and develop a business plan, but Citizens for Better Government, L.L.C. is donating this one free of charge.  The plan provides an excellent framework to begin a real discussion on how to make Lake County a vibrant area again.  Doing nothing is no longer an option.  Despite the differences the no-growth politicians have with our group, we hope they will at least view this plan on its own merits.

There are great business minds in this community, and we are sure there are points or opportunities that our plan did not address that you believe it should.  Let us know by leaving a comment on our blog at www.lakecountygov.info.  Also, if you think this is a good framework to start Lake County on a new path, send this newsletter to your local government official and Commissioner and demand they start talking about economic growth.  Together, with great ideas and clear thoughts, we can start the rebuilding of a great Lake County, which will exceed the expectations of all who live here!

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