Each week through the general election, The Breeze will ask the candidates for Cape Coral City Council an issue-related question. In the interest of fairness, each candidate is limited to the same amount of space, about 100 words, for their response. The question for Week 8 is: During the "boom," Cape Coral saw a dramatic increase in commercial and professional space construction. What, if anything, can the city now do to improve occupancy rates, i.e. get these store fronts and offices filled?
MARNI LIN SAWICKI
Working together with local groups, area businesses, interested citizens, as well as our Economic Development office, I would ask that we assess the type of businesses best suited for these spaces and the businesses/services we lack in the Cape. Once "best uses" have been established, developing a marketing strategy to target particular types of businesses is imperative. In addition, our City Manager and Department Heads should be a working part of this group. They would simultaneously assess the current process for licensing and code enforcement requirements to develop a plan that would streamline the process of opening a business in the Cape without compromising our requirements. Our best marketers are the current business owners. I would ask the City Manager and staff to develop an instrument that would elicit their concerns with the process and ideas that will improve our overall business climate. Only by working together with all our resources will the City be viewed as "business friendly."
JOHN J. SULLIVAN (incumbent)
We can offer incentives to bring in new commercial development. We have the customized incentive in place right now. This plan was put in place during my tenure.
We need to make our processes to open a new business easier to understand. Permitting and Inspections must be expedited in order to make it more palatable to be able to open new businesses. We need to lower taxes, rather than to raise them, in order to help bring in new businesses and create more and better jobs for our residents while increasing our revenue streams. This would take some of the tax burden off of our current residents and business owners.
JAMES (JIM) BURCH
Vacant commercial space is an interesting dynamic. On one hand, there is a raging debate about eliminating impact fees to spur growth and on the other, the question as to what the city can do to fill the space. Government can't be everything to all people and this is an example. Most of any economic recovery (or downturn) is a market condition of supply and demand. Most of the solution for vacancy rates will reside with the owners providing incentives for new tenants, such as a month free rent, utility rebates, shorter terms, etc. The City Economic Development Department can and should, however, market the fact that we can provide a variety of business atmospheres for those coming to our city. That message is the same as I expressed nationally in 2009 which has now become the regional mantra: Educated work force, highest quality of life, affordable living and plenty of space for new business at reasonable rates and terms. We are moving forward and open for business.
DAVID R. HEADD
This question is very timely. There has been a surge in leasing activity in the retail space market over the last six months. Although this can be attributed in part to the improvement in the economy, the major factor is action on the part of the owners and developers of the various retail properties. They have cut the P.S.F. lease rates back to the levels not seen since 2004. They have also included CAM into their lease rates. CAM, an acronym for common area maintenance, includes all the costs of normal maintenance and insurance costs connected to the property. The real question will be what kind of impact the new Utilities tax and the pending sign ordinance will have on this burst of activity. A business friendly council would be the best way to help boost the occupancy rate which in turn will increase revenues.
CHRIS N. CHULAKES-LEETZ (incumbent)
The City Council had previously addressed this issue in 2010 which I fully supported. At that time the majority of Council passed a "Change of Use Fee Waiver". This allowed buildings constructed for one use to be utilized for another purpose without the City charging the extreme fees they customarily impose. The current Council in their "wisdom" allowed this good plan to expire in 2012. We should reinstate this waiver immediately and get government out of the way of business. Businesses will not thrive unless we clear government red tape and fees out of their way.
First, I will be involved with local businesses that we have now. Working with leaders to develop a strong relationship and focus on ideas that have and have not worked in the overall development of each business. This will allow us to make future development an easier procedure.
Next, ensuring we have the proper equipment, people and process in place that allows for companies to expand into Cape Coral with less government intrusion.
Finally, advertising. A campaign to highlight why business leaders should move their company to Cape Coral. Plenty of building space, beautiful area and the biggest incentive, 160,000 residents to help support the new business to our area.
KEVIN M. McGRAIL (incumbent)
The empty commercial spaces in Cape Coral should be looked upon as opportunities to help jump start our economy moving forward. We need to market our City as open for business NOW, with retail and commercial space available for immediate occupancy. My solution to this excess of commercial square footage is sponsoring the "change of use" impact fee abatement. This will allow for new business enterprises to move into those empty spaces with the economic incentive of little to no impact fee charges. The Land use and zoning changes I previously sponsored has carved out the future map of commerce in Cape Coral for construction of new business start-ups. Let's put Cape Coral back to work!
A councilman referred to Cape Coral on August 19 from the dais as "the premier bedroom community in Southwest Florida." In a letter to the editor, he said, "We are on the mat and can't get up." These kinds of expressions send the wrong message to businesses looking to open or relocate! It's urgent that we collectively get a dose of positive, we-can-do-it-together attitude on council. Tout how many consumers we have who want to buy products and services, stop negative comments from the dais, fix conflicting permitting issues-and, most of all, start accommodating entrepreneurs looking to fill those spaces. Council members and staff need to proactively collaborate with local Realtors, developers, existing businesses, and residents to create demand for spaces. It's time we make opening businesses affordable and start projecting excitement and confidence to entice them.
Voter registration, early voting
* Voter registration:
Applications are available
online at www.leeelections.com,
at all Lee County libraries, and other locations including Cape Coral City Hall at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd., Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce at 2051 Cape Coral Parkway, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and all Lee County Supervisor of Elections offices including the one in the Cape at 1031 S.E. 9th Place,
Suite 3. A full list is available at www.leeelections.com.
* Early voting locations:
* Lee County Elections Cape Coral Branch Office 1031 S.E. 9th Place, Suite 3 (behind the Lee County Government Center).
* Lee County Elections Main Office at the Constitutional Complex in Fort Myers at 2480 Thompson St., third floor.
* City of Cape Coral
General Election: Nov. 5
Voter Registration Book
closes: Oct. 7
Early voting Oct. 28-31, Nov. 1-2.
Cape Coral City Council races are non-partisan,citywide elections meaning registered voters can cast a ballot in each race, no matter party affiliation, no matter the district in which they live.