Collier leaders talk about local needs with economic development candidates

William DeShazer/Staff 
 Collier County Economic Development Director candidate, Michael Chen, talks with members of the public during a meet and greet sponsored by the Naples Area Board of Realtors at HB's on the Gulf in the Naples Beach Hotel on Friday Dec. 7, 2012.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Collier County Economic Development Director candidate, Michael Chen, talks with members of the public during a meet and greet sponsored by the Naples Area Board of Realtors at HB's on the Gulf in the Naples Beach Hotel on Friday Dec. 7, 2012.

— They had to talk about what they want to do to bring economic development in Collier County.

But before they did, county residents, employees and businesspeople told them what they thought were the economic development needs of the community.

William Bradley, Michael Chen and Bruce Register — the three finalists for the county's economic development director job — had their first informal interviews Friday morning with about 40 people who attended the meet and greet sponsored by the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

"If I am the candidate to get this job, I plan to do a lot of listening," said Bradley, who is executive director of Jay County Development Corporation in Portland, Ind. "There is a lot of desire here."

The three candidates drank coffee and juice, ate pastries and mingled with those who came to speak to them. "These people are very in tune with the community," said Register, who is currently the corporate business development manager for Hillsborough County Economic Development in Tampa. "They are very enthusiastic ... I am impressed. I really see prosperity."

Harold Weeks, president of the Collier County branch of the NAACP, said he was interested in talking to the candidates about diversity. He also hoped that the candidates would think about not just jobs at the top of the ladder, but all along the employment spectrum.

"We need help here," he said. "We can't expect real estate to carry us. We need good diversity, a good flow of people. We need to benefit everyone."

Chen, who is the owner of the consulting business Urban Development & Mobility Solutions in Tampa, said those who spoke to him were interested to know how the office would be organized under his leadership and also how he would work with the $400,000 in county taxpayer money, which will pay for a staff of four.

"The community has a lot of economic engines. We just have to identify what those are and figure out what is it about the economic engine that can be capitalized on."

Alan Reynolds, the vice president of Stantec, said he spoke to the candidates about Collier County's economic development efforts as part of a larger state and regional efforts.

"Everyone can't got it alone. We have to interface with other folks in the region and build a strong relationship," he said. "We need to get on the bandwagon. We have been on a bit of a hiatus."

Bill Poteet, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors, said his organization was happy to facilitate the meeting between the candidates and the public.

"Economic development is crucial for our economy," he said. "The more sophisticated the economy, the easier and the better it is for our (real estate agents). We have no preconceived ideas. We know this is a rigorous process and, whoever they pick, it will be a win-win for Collier."

County Manager Leo Ochs, who will ultimately make the decision about which one of the three candidates to hire, said he is looking for a candidate that is a communicator, who can build and "understanding and awareness of what economic development can do to benefit the entire community."

"I want someone who can work with the private sector, the public sector and the education community to attract the talent we need to grow the economy," he said. "Someone who can communicate why economic development is important not only to the business sector, but to the overall value of the quality of life."

Ochs said he hoped to have a choice narrowed down Friday evening, but said the selection could take longer.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Discuss
  • Print

Related Stories

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Share your thoughts

Comments are the sole responsibility of the person posting them. You agree not to post comments that are off topic, defamatory, obscene, abusive, threatening or an invasion of privacy. Violators may be banned. Click here for our full user agreement.

Comments can be shared on Facebook and Yahoo!. Add both options by connecting your profiles.

Features