Lee County is in a great position to transform its local economy and broaden its financial base. But it will take vision and commitment.
This proposal offers a way out, but for Lee County the clock is ticking. Whatever advantage it has is eroding quickly, as neighboring communities, such as Hendry County, work on developing an aggressive economic business plan involving air transportation and cargo.
Miami's airport and their air cargo business are reaching near capacity with its trade to Central and South America. We can tap into this and expand our port of entry status. The RSW airport has permitting for additional runways. With the proper enhancements, we could generate a great deal more traffic and business for our region.
On top of that we should develop a more aggressive approach in upgrading our existing railroad lines. Every part of the state of Florida has strong RR connections, except southwest Florida. As the general cost of transportation rises, rail will become more critical, and SWFL is in danger of being carved out of the entire network.
Ultimately we should designate an International Free Trade Zone.
Florida ranks fourth in the nation for international trade and commerce and has the most to gain from passage of the free trade pacts.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce declares more investments are needed throughout the state to ready Florida's infrastructure for a new generation of international trade opportunities.
International companies grow faster, are more profitable, pay higher wages and are more resilient during economic downturns.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce says the trade agreements will create more than 20,000 new jobs and generate more than $1.5 billion in international trade opportunities. We can only be apart of this growth opportunity if we re-enforce our infrastructure.
A convergence of these man-made resources along with our ideal location in relation to the Southern Hemisphere will help develop and attract manufacturing and production facilities. Such projects could produce industrial tools, medical products and silicone chips and be easily shipped to the Caribbean and South American Markets.
We already have the bones for a solid infrastructure in place for an industry that is clearly booming on the East coast. But taking it to the next level will require a substantial financial commitment. It will involve difficult decisions and a re-organization of priorities.
As an example, building new roads into undeveloped areas, which promote urban sprawl, may not be such a good idea. Providing incentives to upgrading land that already has existing infrastructure would be more cost efficient. These are just some of the many re-evaluations we will have to make if we commit to such an economic paradigm shift.
We can't let other entities determine our fate. We need to set a definitive course based on resources, logic and sound economic principles. This will anchor Lee County and build a solid foundation for a prosperous future.
- Warren Wright is a member of the Lee County Tourism Development Council