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Consultants kick off NFM marketing study

March 16, 2016
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Three consultants assigned the task of conducting a study on North Fort Myers and how the area can attract and keep businesses met with a packed house of citizens and stakeholders at the Lee County Economic Development office last week to kick off what promises to be an interesting process.

Their goal, they said Wednesday, was to come up with optimistic, yet doable projects to the area, with the right focus and that can be turned around in a short period of time.

It all started with the kickoff session, attended by county Commissioner Brian Hamman as well as civic leaders, which explained the approach the consultants would take in collecting data so they can get an accurate study.

Article Photos

County Commissioner Brian Hamman speaks during the North Fort Myers study kickoff event in Fort Myers on Wednesday.


The kickoff session was one of the seven tasks the consultants will accomplish. There also will be private interviews with those in the business corridor, which the consultants said is the most important element.

"We need to know why North Fort Myers has or hasn't been active. We need to know what's working and what's lagging," said Bruce Hoch of DCG Consulting, who did much of the talking during the session.

From there, the consultants will crunch the numbers and see what market will create the best opportunity and assets that may not have value, and review the market supply of homes, commerce and the like.

They also will analyze the community's strengths and weaknesses, the market demand, and finally the market report, which they will deliver within 90 days, around the middle of June.

Much of the talk and scope of the study was about the downtown corridor, which is the area from Pondella Road to the river between the 41s.

The consultants took their first feedback at the meeting, with many suggestions coming from the peanut gallery. One suggested bulldozing Hancock Bridge Square and turning it into a 20-story condo.

The consultants also had their critiques. Hoch especially had issues with Old 41 and what expansion had done to it.

"The expansion of 41 eliminated setbacks. You have businesses set up to the sidewalks. It needs to median to make it look attractive," Hoch said. "In Punta Gorda, 41 is beautiful with all the palm trees. North Fort Myers has a New Jersey highway feel to it."

In the end the consultants got a lot of early clues as to what the stakeholders would say, and this pleased Hamman.

"I saw a community that's really engaged and really eager to see redevelopment take place and that's very encouraging," Hamman said. "The community knows what's going on and what they want for the future. This is a great opportunity to give that feedback we all need to hear to move our community forward."

Rachel Busch, of the economic development office, said she thought the turnout was great and the input was constructive.

"It shows people are dedicated to the North Fort Myers effort. We've already started a good deal of the work and pulled the data they need. We created a drop box so we can provide them with brand new information so they can crunch the numbers and hit the ground running," Busch said. "Conducting the interviews will take the most time. People are passionate about this topic."



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