Lake County (FL) Economic Growth and Redevelopment – Economic Development Strategic Plan
ChallengeOnce known for its abundant orange groves, Lake County has emerged as Greater Orlando’s new suburban frontier, accounting for a quarter of the metro area’s population growth in recent years. New residents have been attracted to the county’s access to Orlando, rolling landscape, multiple lakes, and plentiful outdoor recreational opportunities. This growth, however, comes with challenges. The population boom has been concentrated primarily in communities with close proximity to Orlando, resulting in a distinct economic divide between the northern and southern halves of an expansive and diverse Lake County. In addition, growth has brought with it greater demand for public investments in infrastructure to support new housing and higher traffic volumes. At the same time, the county has yet to successfully position itself as a major employment center within the wider region. In effect, Lake County lacks the commercial tax base necessary to fund needed improvements. Finally, Lake County is comprised of 14 municipalities, posing challenges to growth management due to a lack of coordinated planning efforts among the communities.
ApproachTo address these challenges, Lake County Economic Growth and Redevelopment hired TIP to assist them in the preparation of an economic development strategic plan. To do this, TIP conducted an in-depth economic and demographic assessment, stakeholder interviews and focus groups, and public forums. These activities informed a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis that provided the building blocks for the strategic plan.
OutcomeThe resulting strategic plan was published and adopted unanimously in February 2008 by the Board of County Commissioners. The plan laid out a vision of the county as an emerging employment center for the Orlando region, focusing on business development opportunities in green building, professional and business services, healthcare, and outdoor recreation. The plan outlines four broad goals: (1) the establishment of a countywide public/private economic development partnership; (2) the attraction and development of talent to support targeted sectors; (3) the support of local higher education and research opportunities; and (4) a continued focus on protecting the county’s unique character and sense of place. Key projects in the plan included the expansion of sports medicine and training programs at the local University of Central Florida campus, establishment of an entrepreneurship program, a focus on mixed-use, transit-oriented development opportunities in core urban areas, and prioritization of potential business sites in unincorporated areas that are supported by existing infrastructure.
Photo credit Ebyabe