The purpose of this Strategy is to provide direction for the efforts of the Sarasota Sister Cities Economic Development program to promote economic growth, increase the diversity of the economic base, provide good wages for our citizens, and assist the City in recovering from the current recession. It is also intended to develop our strategy to work with our eight Sister Cities, with the State of Florida Sister Cities, and with Sister Cities International.

International business development is increasingly important. The economic is increasingly global, and new markets are developing and expanding throughout the world. People do business with people they know and trust.  We will build on the relationships we have built with sister cities throughout the world to increase trade and economic activity.

This Strategy is consistent with the City Comprehensive Plan. It amplifies the Economic Development recommendations of the Plan and other plans developed and adopted by the City.

Past Strategies and Plans

The Comprehensive Plan focuses economic development efforts on office, commercial and industrial development. Redevelopment efforts began with projects in downtown neighborhoods and in development of the underutilized waterfront property. The City developed an aggressive program to renew and revitalize the older portions of the City near and south of downtown.

Strategy Task Force
In 2013 a task force of key economic development leaders from Sarasota Sister Cities met to briefly evaluate past accomplishments. The continuing national and local recession has created a need to review and reassess past strategies. The team reviewed strategy and proposed needed changes.

Key Findings

▪ City efforts were succeeding despite the national recession
▪ The City is concerned about lost jobs and investment
▪ The training of our workforce is vital
▪ Improvements to the performance of our Schools are required
▪ More shovel ready industrial sites are needed
▪ The City core must be a vibrant civic, cultural and living environment
▪ Parts of the inner city continue to decline

Post Recession Economy Challenges:
▪ Competition for business will increase
▪ The USA will continue to lose unskilled jobs
▪ Business retention will become more difficult
▪ Globalization will provide challenges / opportunities
▪ Business will become more high tech and white collar

This strategy continues the efforts of previous plans and strategies, further refining existing programs, and improving our implementation strategy. It incorporates citizen input that was part of the comprehensive planning process and addresses negative trends that were identified in the development of the Comprehensive Plan. It adds some additional strategies which create a cohesive comprehensive economic development approach combining current programs with a vision for future opportunities. The strategy also incorporates current trends appropriate for Sarasota in the development of business and industry.

Economic Development Goals

▪ Retain and Expand Existing Businesses
▪ Nurture and Grow New Businesses
▪ Revitalize older areas of the City
▪ Increase Sustainable Development and “Green” Technology
▪ Attract New investment and Business
▪ Create a Positive Image of the City
▪ Increase the Diversity of the Economic Base
▪ Provide Solid Jobs at Good Wages

Retain and Expand Existing Businesses

Keep what you have. Grow what you have. These two statements are a key for a successful economic development strategy and program. Too many economic development departments spend most of their time seeking new companies. Success begins with working to keep your existing business owners’ satisfied with their city, and then helping them succeed and expand.

The City also must continue to nurture relationships with its major employers. In this day and age when industry is often not led by local CEO’s, it continues to be important that the leadership of the City be on a first name and relationship basis with the CEO’s of major industry. The recent move by Boeing from its long time Seattle headquarters, because among other items, its dissatisfaction with its treatment by the community highlights the need for this effort. Attention should be paid to the industrial and medical sectors of the City. This would be an effort led by the Economic Development Department and City Manager, but led by the Mayor with participation from other elected officials.

Nurture and Grow Start-Up Businesses

The City nurtures new and expanding businesses.  The City will continue to move as it has recently done to capture the results of its nurturing efforts by locating new business or industries in the City. The City should not support developmental efforts of business only to lose production facilities and active business as they enter the market. This will require all of the above strategies to work as well as creative thought to make incentives work.

The City will also use the programs and the incubator as precursors for these efforts as well as discussions surrounding retirees and spin-offs from existing industries. What can the City do to support developing businesses, especially job producing businesses and industries that will be leaders in the new economy? The City should create an environment where it hears about new business creation opportunities. It should also try to capture the ensuing business or industry when providing incentives for development of the business or industries.

The following strategies will be continued to resolve this problem.

▪ Continue to seek companies providing jobs with good wages in strategies further developed in other sections of this Strategy.

▪ Continue and expand upon marketing the first time home buyer incentives. This incentive should regularly be promoted with young professional and first time home buyers. These residents tend to be less fearful of crime and the incentive will help overcome concerns about property values. Because of fears of falling property values, the program might be enhanced to include all buyers in troubled neighborhoods to shore up pricing values and to maintain and reintroduce middle income buyers to these neighborhoods. As values increase in these neighborhoods, the need for the program is reduced and it can be phased out. An increase in housing values in these homes will also help to pay for the program.

▪ Enhance Quality of Life programs. Efforts should be made to promote recreational and arts programs within the City. Current cable and public television promotions are not enough. The City should consider a yearly calendar of events which is then produced as a promotion item for both the Economic Development Department and the City as a whole. This could be updated monthly.

▪ Improve and implement the Artist Relocation Program that encourages artists to locate their homes, studios, and shops in older neighborhoods.

▪ Continue the incentive program to support the purchase and rehabilitation of older homes and investigate new programs. Older homes inherently have additional maintenance costs. The City could recognize these maintenance costs in a program that promotes the purchase of older and historic homes through tax credits. As values increase in these neighborhoods, the need for the program is reduced and it can be phased out. This tax credit could encourage the maintenance and upkeep of single family historic homes. An increase in housing values in these homes will also help to pay for the program. Criteria would be necessary to target this program.

▪ Working with other departments the Economic Development Department should identify land which could be purchased and cleared. Although there is a small budget for this, if done correctly, land banking could allow for additional new housing and commercial developments in redevelopment areas.  Additional housing alternatives in the downtown area are an attraction to the young and new workforce members as well as those seeking to downsize their homes.

▪ Celebrate and ballyhoo economic successes of the City and region.

Increase Sustainable Development and “Green” Technology” Technology

The Environmental movement is now fully part of American and World thinking. Almost everyone agrees that we should improve our air and water quality, and use less energy. Local governments are becoming leaders in efforts to enhance Sustainability and implement Green Technology.

The following are items that the City should support:

▪ Promote more efficient buildings
▪ Use passive solar orientation of buildings
▪ Encourage solar and wind energy systems
▪ Use recycled material in buildings
▪ Update City / County codes to permit and encourage “green” development
▪ Recycle building material waste
▪ Revisit development requirements, minimizing pavement widths and cost
▪ Encourage rain harvesting & irrigation
▪ Support the development of the local production of “green” technology equipment
▪ Support the use of natural landscaping
▪ Employ green roofs
▪ Incorporate bikeways and pedestrian paths into new and older developments
▪ Design wetlands, drainage systems, retention and bio swales into parks
▪ Improve City and County staff knowledge of “green” techniques
▪ Support quality construction for long lived buildings
▪ Encourage mixed use development
▪ Support walk to work programs
▪ Encourage development that supports transit
▪ Support efforts to redevelop older communities
▪ Permit Live / Work Space development
▪ Support natural open space and parks
▪ Use open surface natural drainage where feasible
▪ Require street trees
▪ Encourage the use of geothermal energy
▪ Support recycling

Attract New Investment and Business

Attracting new investment and business to the City is a vital function. Some businesses will fail or move to overseas locations. New investment and new businesses must be sought to replace lost business and jobs, and to further grow our economy.

The City works closely with the region and State on an aggressive attraction program. The City has professionally prepared brochures, an active electronic marketing program, and attends national business development conventions. Working with the State and EDC, the City responds to RFP’s from a variety of business interested in moving into the Midwest. The City also reaches out to a variety of businesses with direct mail, and initiates contacts with business that the city council or staff believes may fit the City.

The City works with developers to provide affordable land, to make the development process seamless and to find incentives that will make this City more competitive in today’s market.

Create a Positive Image of the City and Region

Some citizens feel that Sarasota has a negative image or they feel negatively toward the City. Rather than help promote the success of the City, these citizens inadvertently work to the City’s worst interest. It is important that the City promote itself internally. The City must work to instill pride in its citizens and staff.

Likewise, the City must continue to promote itself externally. These efforts can be combined through regional efforts that showcase the metropolitan area. The City will continue to work with the EDC and others to showcase our City and region at various national events such as the International Shopping Center Conferences. We will cooperate in joint advertising in appropriate real estate magazines and in the development of promotional materials.

The City and County have developed their own promotional materials and have a wide selection of materials available through E-Resources (Electronic Information on the Internet). The City should continue to use written materials and continue its efforts with E-Resources. The City has aggressively moved to provide very frequent E-updates of information about the City’s economic development opportunities.

The City will continue its E-Resource efforts, updating and improving them over time. The City will continue its wide use of Web Sites, Blogs, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to market the City.

Increase the Diversity of the Economic Base

During the past ten years the City has diversified with professional and medical services increasing dramatically.

The City will continue to encourage the diversification of the City economic base. High tech, medical, and “green” technology businesses are opening and expanding, and the City will support this encouraging trend.

Provide Solid Jobs at Good Wages

The recent national recession has been hard on Sarasota and the larger metropolitan area. Unemployment is high though it has been improving. A major effort of this strategy must be to help restore our businesses and increase jobs, wages and income. To achieve that end we must:

Create New Industrial Parks

The need for a diversification of the economic base with its accompanying increase in good wage jobs is an ongoing theme for all economic development programs. Sarsota finds itself at a competitive disadvantage with neighboring communities. Surrounding communities are prepared with low cost improved land ready for industry. Sarasota does not have these sites and parks.

Sarasota currently lacks land ready for industrial development. Industrial redevelopment sites are available, but are not readily marketable even with incentives. Small redevelopment sites are available, but no improved land has been set aside for industrial purposes. When opportunities are available, either they bypass the City or the City scrambles to accommodate them. The City should work on a strategy to develop an industrial park that provides improved land at competitive prices

Improve the School System

There have been many references to the need for improved schools in comments by residents, professionals and elected officials. While the continued improvement and provision of a quality education are laudable goals, they are ones which can have only one response by the City’s economic development program. If economic development programs result in an increase the City’s tax base within the School District’s boundaries, then the decreasing tax base and ongoing funding problems of the school system will diminish. However, to improve the tax base, it must be recognized that there is a need for the City and School District to collaborate on targeted incentives that result in a long term viable tax base for the City and its other taxing districts.

Continue County, Regional, State and National Participation

Working with other groups, learning from others mistakes and understanding new programs are all benefits for working outside the City. The City should continue its ongoing participation with other groups to nurture, refine and enhance economic development.

In addition, the City should use these groups to refine and enhance its economic development incentives themselves. Most knowledge of “best practices” for programs and incentives comes from associations with these groups. To know what is on the horizon and appropriately make it part of its program and incentive arsenal makes the City competitive in economic development. Participation in these groups allows the City to stay on top of, improve, and evaluate its program and incentive arsenal.

Finally, participation in these groups helps educate staff. This education helps to make the staff more professional in their interactions within and out of the City. It improves the caliber of the City’s economic development efforts.

Embrace the Future

It has already been noted that the City should embrace the future by nurturing businesses that are going to create the jobs base for the future. The City should also embrace new technical programs that have the opportunity to result in long term job viability for the City. Such items as sustainability and new technologies are musts in this endeavor. Support of sustainability means more efficient businesses which are more likely to thrive. .

Continue and Refine Existing Urban Redevelopment Programs

While these are the last strategies listed, as they are not new endeavors; they are the most important strategies. They combine with many of the above strategies and are key to the future success of the City. These programs and their current status and the next key steps in their implementation are identified below.


Trend is not destiny. The current recession demands that the City work hard to improve our economy. This Strategy is dynamic, and must be frequently reviewed and revised as necessary. The City will follow this strategy, and revitalize our City and our economy.

Following this strategy will promote economic growth, increase the diversity of the economic base, provide good wages for Sarasota’s citizens and assist the City in recovering from the current recession.