Our community is fortunate to have a stable local economy supported by strong local businesses, excellent schools, progressive local governments and a wealth of talent due to the presence of our institutions of higher education. Recognizing the need to invest in and cultivate this evolving landscape, the County and City Commissions approved becoming only the second community in the state of Florida to include economic development as part of their sales tax initiative. On November 4, 2014, 65% of the voters approved a 20-year extension of the one cent sales tax, which included 12% (estimated at $90.7 million) set aside to support economic development projects, programs, and initiatives.
Understanding the enormity of the opportunity for transformational change created by the sales tax, and in order to support, sustain and propel our collective economic development efforts, a new model, the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality, was created within the consolidated Department of Planning, Land Management, and Community Enhancement (PLACE) and under the governance of the Intergovernmental Agency (IA) on February 29, 2016.
What do you want visitors and locals to know about the Office of Economic Vitality that they may not already know?
OEV is the one-stop-shop for the community’s economic development needs. What visitors and locals might not know is that this effort includes an innovative approach to retaining and expanding businesses locally. This Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) program – called the Capital Local Outreach Opportunity Program (CapitalLOOP) – augments the investment staff has already made in local business relationships and encourages collaboration among the many entities impacting economic development. CapitalLOOP is unique because it aligns private and public stakeholders and partners toward a common economic development goal. It links existing businesses with available resources and incentives, and actively monitors and improves the business climate through community partnerships and data analysis. CapitalLOOP is also made possible through the active involvement of the Minority, Women, & Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) division. This critical collaboration ensures all businesses receive the same high level of service and have access to assistance when issues have been identified.
How has the Office of Economic Vitality grown since it started?
OEV is officially a year old! We hit the ground running on March 1, 2016, and have had several major happenings since then. For example, by year one, we have completed a Work Plan that details – step-by-step – how we plan to grow and expand community-inspired goals outlined in the Tallahassee – Leon County Economic Development Strategic Plan. OEV staff have also participated in the 6th and 7th Americas Competitiveness Exchange on Innovation and Entrepreneurship in September 2016 and April 2017, respectively, to explore how regions in Canada and Central Texas have built and maintained their economic competitiveness. More than 50 high-level leaders from around the world participate in these exchanges to expand links between the global economies and key stakeholders.
Additionally, we’ve transformed the way businesses, government, and citizens access data by pioneering Tallahassee-Leon County’s most comprehensive database of economic indicators. We routinely monitor key economic metrics and current trends and conditions, and make the information available through the OEV website and Quarterly Economic Updates. Finally, we’ve developed an incentives toolkit to cultivate economic competiveness in Tallahassee-Leon County.
What brings people to the Office of Economic Vitality?
One of our main goals is to improve the Tallahassee-Leon County business environment for the existing industry. Through partnering with the OEV, local business’ challenges become the community’s challenges – as do their opportunities. Having local leadership engaged, as well as the supportive CapitaLOOP structure, will ultimately help to make the company become more competitive in its own industry. A recent participant noted: “It is nice to know that [OEV] has an open ear for businesses.”
OEV is able to fully leverage considerable technical and professional resources which previously resided within the County and City Economic Development and MWSBE Offices, respectively, the Planning Department, GIS, and Blueprint. The economic development ecosystem model being implemented by the OEV ensures accountability, transparency, citizen engagement and professional management of economic development projects, programs, and initiatives while simultaneously leveraging ideas, innovations, and intellectual capital through the continuous coordination of the community’s economic development partners. We believe this wealth of resources and expertise, as well as innovative and collaborative vision, is fundamentally what draws people to the OEV.
What’s next for the Office of Economic Vitality?
Our next major project is the launch of a targeted industry study to gain a better understanding of what industries are viable for recruitment. The last study of this kind was performed in 2004. This study will help us assess the region’s assets and future areas of economic growth.
The Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency has also authorized the Minority, Women, and Small Business Enterprise (MWSBE) Division and OEV to negotiate and finalize its contract for a Disparity Study of the City of Tallahassee-Leon County and Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency. This study will provide qualitative and quantitative analysis and guidance on the consolidation of Leon County and the City of Tallahassee minority, women, and small business programs. It will also inform MWSBE’s efforts to minimize the differences in certification programs at the local, university, and state level, as well as help bridge opportunity gaps for minority, women, and small businesses.
Finally, we will are continuing to shape and implement the new CapitaLOOP business retention and expansion program. We are actively connecting with local businesses, engaging our partners, and forming a solid collaborative foundation that will help catalyze and grow the economic ecosystem in the next phases of the program rollout.
Describe the Office of Economic Vitality in 5 words or less
“Accountable, Transparent, Innovative, Collaborative, Engaged.”