Driven in great part by the hugely successful Legoland Florida Resort and thriving economy overall, the hospitality industry is doing very well in greater Lake Wales — providing evidence of opportunity for the launch of more lodging and restaurant businesses here.
Here in the offices of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, a lot a great things happen for the benefit of area visitors and potential visitors, and for the good of the local business community and general economy. Supported by the city, local businesses, our generous investor-partners, and many individuals, the fine Chamber-EDC staff stays busy answering phones, fielding inquiries, responding to requests for information and brochures, conducting marketing research, and so much more.
A city actively pursuing economic development, as Lake Wales is doing through the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, is greatly helped in that pursuit when its assets include a municipal airport. The value of that asset for economic development is multiplied many times over when the airport is modern, attractive, up to date technologically, and, especially important, able to accommodate heavier aircraft and larger corporate jets on its runways and in its hangars.
“The changing face of U.S. retail …”
You’ve probably seen, in print or online, news headlines like the one above. They go back a couple of years — perhaps further back than that in some regions of the country. This isn’t misleading, It’s real. U.S. retail is changing. Anyone who can be counted among American consumers has seen it, has experienced it, and — knowingly or unknowingly — very likely has contributed to it.
Greater Lake Wales is unique for business, it’s good for business, it’s welcoming for business, and it’s very much open for business. Given that positive environment for potential new companies and commerce, it’s considerably easy to put together a top-10 list of reasons why all of this is true.
Economic development — the concerted and coordinated effort to bring more businesses, industry, jobs, commerce and even vitality to a community or region — can happen in many ways.
When the phrase “economic development” comes up in casual conversation, often the first thought folks have is that of a large out-of-the area company announcing plans to build a huge new facility of one sort or another on the outer edge of a city and put hundreds of people to work. That does happen, of course, and there are hundreds of great examples of it all over Polk County, for which we all can be grateful.
In the economic arena, the arena that moves and motivates us here at the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council, the new year is off to a fantastic start! Nationally, regionally, and locally, the news now is very positive, and most signs have us expecting more great things ahead.
Like Santa’s elves, scurrying around busily to meet that critical Christmas Eve deadline — to the delight of good little boys and girls — scores of people in the construction trade are very busy in and for the area around Eagle Ridge Mall, north of Lake Wales. I’m thinking about planners, architects, surveyors, contractors, construction workers, heavy-equipment operators, and utility personnel.
With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us, and with the spirit of thanksgiving a cornerstone of the holiday season, it’s a grand opportunity for my staff and I to publicly mention and thank many people and organizations that richly contribute time, talent, resources, and “heart” for the betterment of greater Lake Wales and, in many ways, to the work of the Lake Wales Area Chamber & Economic Development Council.
Behind the scenes. In the realm of economic development, that’s where much of the action takes place.
Before the first spade of dirt is turned for a new restaurant or retail plaza, before the adult-size Erector Set first appears with engines roaring to set steel beams for a new warehouse or manufacturing plant, you bet that a lot of work to get the project to that point has already quietly taken place in the background.
It’s said that the tempest called Irma could’ve been worse. True. The hurricane that roared northward through Polk County late in the night on Sept. 10 and very early in the morning on Sept. 11 could’ve been a Category 3, 4, or 5 monster instead of only the Category 2 storm that had weakened after several hours over land.
If you’ve heard it said once, you’ve heard it said a dozen times or more: The secret to success — or the key to success — in (“XYZ”) is in the planning and preparation.
You can replace the “XYZ” in this morsel of wisdom with all kinds of endeavors. It’s true when exam time comes in elementary school. It’s true in painting a house (if a quality and long-lasting job is the desired result). It’s true in winning sports championships. And it certainly is true in the closely knit arenas of business recruitment and economic development.
Though it might cost me some gentle ribbing down the road for being “biased,” I just have to say, with all sincerity and honest evaluation, that one of the best concentrated programs for professional and personal education and enrichment locally is one sponsored right here, within the offices of the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council.
It’s a wonderful thing when a community can come together to shine the light on the people and organizations that help to make it tick — that help to make it thrive and prosper, to make it go and grow
A whole lot of “wonderful” happened in mid-May when the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Council held its Second Annual Awards Gala to recognize and honor champion citizens, public servants, business leaders, businesses, and service organizations.
One of the great things about economic development work is the opportunity to meet and interact with so many professionals, learn about them and from them, and get familiar with the organizations they lead or serve. Most of these professionals come from the business community, of course, but they also hail from government, education, law and law enforcement, health care, the arts, and other community sectors. Good economic development requires the whole of community involvement and not just a focus on or from business.
As I noted last time in this space, 2016 was a very positive year for economic development activity in and around Lake Wales, and each of us associated with the Lake Wales Area Chamber of Commerce & Economic Development Council began work the first week of January with the strong belief that 2017 would be even better. These past four or so weeks, excellent conversations, promising business recruitment efforts, behind-the-scenes work on a variety of fronts related to the local economy, and general optimism about the overall U.S., Florida, and Polk County economies have only reinforced that belief.
If someone were to stop me on the street during this week leading up to Christmas and ask me if 2016 was a good year for economic development in greater Lake Wales, I would honestly, happily, and excitedly say “Yes!” It has been a good year for economic development locally — good and even great in many respects.
A lot of good things are happening at the major commercial development formerly known as Longleaf Business Park, and all of it bodes well for the Lake Wales-area economy and further economic development here.
Actually, significantly good things have been happening at the park for the past two or three years, but a flurry of activity recently has put the development in the forefront of local business news.
Activity is picking up along U.S. Highway 27, and I’m not referring to the ever-increasing volume of traffic on that major north-south thoroughfare through Lake Wales. (The traffic matter — the need for some form of major roadway relief for U.S. 27 — was the subject of a previous column and likely will come up again.)
If you spend any time at all thinking about greater Lake Wales, you almost have to conclude that there’s really no other place quite like it. The natural resources and scenic beauty — from the rolling hills of the Florida Ridge to the bass-filled lakes to the flatland “scrub” ecosystems — the subtropical climate, the rich historical heritage, the cultural and entertainment choices, the tourism and sight-seeing options, the top-tier education system, and the growing economic diversity combine to make the area quite unique — and quite special.