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Economic development starts with local business

February 22, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO (news@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Lee County Economic Development Office has re-prioritized its efforts from trying to bring big businesses into Lee County to nurturing the ones that are already here.

That's what Amy McQuagge, Marketing, Sales and Communications coordinator at the Lee County Economic Development Office, said during the monthly North Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce Business Leader's Luncheon last week in the Dolphin Room at the Shell Factory.

McQuagge, who filled in for Rachel Busch, gave a presentation on what the office did during the previous year, and it was certainly a year of change, with new leadership in John Boland.

"With John brought a realignment of efforts. We had been big whale hunting going after the Chico's and Hertz of the world, and we had some success," McQuagge said. "John brought a more local focus. He said why are we spending all this money going after a guy in Boston when we can cultivate right here?"

Boland and his staff of seven started knocking on doors and spoke with more than 300 businesses to figure out what their needs and challenges are. McQuagge said they received a wealth of information and discovered they can make connections through the Horizon Council.

They also learned there were some great stories to tell, and that they wanted to share them with the world.

"We started a social media and blog series called Lee County Limelight, which was born out of these visits. We would ask questions and they would tell their stories," McQuagge said. "We reached a lot of people at a minimal cost and we're helping them reach new customer bases."

The series has focused on more than 40 companies and has resulted in more than 20,000 visits, with the hopes of bringing more people through the doors.

The result has been a tripling of page views on their website and a doubling of minutes, suggesting that more people are seeing more readable content on the site. With the local focus, McQuagge said the number of Lee County viewers has risen 30 percent.

As for the future, McQuagge said they will fine tune their new approach and meet with more businesses, while creating more events for businesses to get together and share ideas.

"Our goal in 2017 is to get better at the things we did in 2016. We've already visited 100 businesses this year," McQuagge said. "We're not trying to sell you anything. We just want to learn."

As for North Fort Myers, McQuagge said they have started a Dine-Local program in which they are looking to engage as many local restaurants as possible to participate in a discount card program.

She said the North Fort Myers study is still being worked on. There is a meeting scheduled for the end of the month between Lee County commissioners and consultants where they will figure out how to move forward.

A draft of the study can be found on developnfm.com.

"If you don't follow our initiatives, please follow us, and if you do follow us, thank you, but engage with us," McQuagge said. "That's how we're going to spread the news."

 
 

 

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