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Guest opinion: Protect our CRAs and support local businesses, too

January 5, 2018
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Community redevelopment agencies (CRAs) have been the subject of increased attention and scrutiny in recent months following the introduction of two bills in the Florida Legislature which would enact strict limitations in an attempt to eventually dissolve these agencies entirely. With an influx of competing information surrounding CRAs, it is important to look at the facts about why CRAs are formed and what they are doing for communities across Florida, including Cape Coral.

CRAs exist to serve communities by revitalizing neglected areas through projects such as streetscape improvements, building renovations and the creation of neighborhood parks. To accomplish this, CRAs use money collected from tax increment funding, which captures tax revenue from property value increases in a designated area - increases that are the result of effective redevelopment. This money is then reinvested back into the area served by the CRA. CRA projects do not receive any federal or state funding whatsoever.

Further, CRAs are held to a high standard of accountability, as well as being subject to public oversight. Each agency is required by law to submit a total of five annual reports detailing its finances, activities and administration. The participation of the public in monthly board meetings allows for additional transparency of the agency and its actions.

CRAs also are a critical component of local job creation. The revamp of prominent areas and essential public amenities attracts major businesses and job providers, which are then encouraged to participate in redevelopment efforts. One way CRAs accomplish this is by creating incentives for businesses in redevelopment areas. For example, the agencies may provide matching grants for business owners to improve the appearance of their building facades, thereby drawing more businesses to the area.

As a business owner, I support CRAs and the positive changes they bring to our local areas - particularly their support of local business growth. Progress can already be seen in Cape Coral's Downtown area - the town's original business district. Through specialized redevelopment plans, CRAs have promoted local businesses by providing support and advertising for special events. In the South Cape district, the local CRA has assisted in a variety of improvements to infrastructure, such as utility and public amenity upgrades, in addition to storm water and traffic services. These improvements all support the ultimate goal of spurring economic progress in our towns and preserving important pieces of community history.

When I founded my company, The Nickel Ride, I wanted to provide an eco-friendly taxi service that benefitted businesses and riders alike. Business owners have a chance to gain exposure through advertising, while riders enjoy a free and convenient ride to local destinations. This is a similar dynamic to the model illustrated by CRAs, which provide the building blocks and incentives for stakeholders to participate in the revitalization process. In fact, The Nickel Ride's recent expansion to Cape Coral was the result of sustained growth in the area, due in large part to redevelopment efforts.

CRAs are essential to the economies and overall well-being of our communities. By allowing lawmakers to abolish CRA programs, we are not only hindering important redevelopment initiatives, but the growth and success of our local businesses, too. Now is the time to reach out to local lawmakers and let them know that redevelopment works. Protecting our CRAs will ensure the continued progress of redevelopment projects for years to come.

- Judah Longgrear is the founder and CEO of The Nickel Ride, a ride service that provides free rides to people within the Cape Coral and Fort Myers areas. He can be reached at Judah@thenickelride.co.

 
 
 

 

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