Article by Shelley Perry

On November 2, 2016, Class XXI participated in a session offering a broad overview of economic development & growth in Collier County/ Greater Naples, including the current economy and forecasted growth, the competing economic “engines”, and the many challenges the community will face as a result of growth.

The Naples Daily News Community Room was the venue for the entire day, and Panera Bread catered breakfast and lunch. The choice of a single venue and plenty of good, healthy food allowed the team to present multiple speakers and panels in a fairly short day (8:30-3:30). A Tour of the Naples Daily News operations took place after lunch, and offered a much-needed break. Jeff Lytle moderated the whole day, and did an outstanding job.

The day began with a Keynote presentation by Blake Gable of Barron Collier Companies. Because of comments from last year’s team, we deliberately put Blake on his own followed by Chris Westley’s presentation on economic indicators. Again, taking into consideration last year’s comments, we asked Chris to shorten/”punch up” his presentation, and it was very well-received. Jeff moderated questions for Blake and Chris.

The day’s first panel were representatives from the “Big 3 economic engines” – tourism, retail and agriculture. The speakers were excellent – entertaining and informative.

The two afternoon panels centered on business growth and the challenges in workforce education and housing. The business growth speakers were well received, and provided a balanced picture of area companies. The team was hoping that the last panel on “Challenges” would generate a substantive conversation on affordable/workforce housing, but the class seemed more interested in environmental issues like water quality and fracking.

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