Tuesday, November 3, 2009

County Administrator: "We have no economic development strategy....." You mean we were supposed to?

Sarasota County Administrator, Jim Ley, the guy whom the citizens pay to look out for the best interests of Sarasota County, revealed in an internal memo to the county commissioners, who, not uncoincidentally, should also be looking out for the best interests of Sarasota County, that "we have no economic development strategy as a community." Apparently, Ley, who has held the County Administrator position since 1997, just realized that not having a plan might be a bad thing, now that unemployment in the area has hit 12.5%, county offices are being staffed by a skeleton crew, county works projects are bordering on the non-existent and if the county's overall economic health was being evaluated by one of Pres. Obama's death panels, they would give us 24 hours to pull the plug on ourselves or they would do it for us.

The county spends about $7 million a year on "economic development." And by "economic development," they mean printing glossy brochures showing beautiful Gulf scenes (soon to be dotted with oil wells), pristine sandy beaches (soon to be littered with the carcasses of oil-soaked birds), and smiling tourists (soon to be seen driving off somewhere else.)

When the developers started leaving empty lots to go along with their empty promises and half-built projects predicated on half-baked ideas, when the financiers of these grandiose schemes went bust or went to jail, then somebody looked around the room full of all these smart people and said, "Now what?"

So, being the smart people they are (hey, if we didn't think they were smart, we wouldn't have elected them, right? Yoy, just think how dumb the people we didn't elect must be....), they brought the money-machine known as the Boston Red Sox here. Except that they stayed in Ft. Myers. Then they worked up a deal with a Hollywood studio and brought Digital Domain here, along with the promised 1,000 high-paying jobs. Except that they went to Port St. Lucie.

Just a few weeks ago, they wined and dined some more Hollywood-types to entice them into filming their next big blockbuster here on the Suncoast and dump wads of cash in our laps. The filmmakers spent the day intently cruising the bay, visiting local landmarks and listening to our spiel. And when they left to go back to Tinsel Town, they said, "Thanks for lunch."

To be fair, Sarasota Dounty did recently play host to the Ultimate Frisbee tournament, billed as "the Super Bowl of frisbee competition." So there's that. Tampa played host this past winter to another "Super Bowl," so that should put us on a par with them for most Super Bowls hosted in a single year.

Some egghead economist from the University of Michigan said about our state of affairs, "It's very easy to be anti-growth when everything is going well and you're rich. The only thing worse than having too much growth is not having any." Pfffffft. What's he know? We'll take our own economists like Hank Fishkind and the others, who recognized that our economy had bottomed out in early 2oo8. Then, again in late 2008. Then it was 2009. Now, the economists all agree that the recovery will absolutely, positively be in the first quarter of we-don't-know-the-hell-when.

But, not to worry. We are in good hands and our elected officials have taken steps to ensure our economic health and well-being.

They are going to build a baseball stadium atop a polluted landfill that will be packed with fans:

And they're in secret negotiations with Lakewood Ranch to relocate their state-of-the-art hockey arena to Sarasota County (those country bumpkins in Lakewood Ranch won't even know what happened until we have their stadium loaded on county trucks, rolling down the Interstate.....)


  1. The Sarasota - Bradenton, FL Unemployment Situation Visualized in Heat Map form:
    A map of Sarasota - Bradenton Unemployment in September 2009 (BLS data)

    versus Sarasota - Bradenton Unemployment Levels 1 year ago

  2. Thanks for the visual, Peter.

    Your link shows that local uber-Commissar of the Conservatives, Rich Swier, has finally gotten his wish: Sarasota has, indeed, become a 'Red County.'