SCF and Partners Announce The Deal Regional Venture

SMR and Gulf Coast Community Foundation are Partners

(Bradenton, Fla., January 18, 2011) The DEAL, a major regional collaboration initiative, was announced today by three of Southwest Florida’s biggest players: Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. (SMR), developer of the award-winning master-planned community of Lakewood Ranch; State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF), the area’s oldest and largest higher education institution; and Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, Florida’s largest community foundation.

The partners’ joint concept for The DEAL, acronym for Design & Economic Acceleration Laboratory, was presented at a news conference held in the broad median on east University Parkway. The location marking the symbolic border of Manatee and Sarasota counties was selected to underscore bi-county enthusiasm for the expansive regional initiative and give guests a close-up view of a vast parcel of undeveloped land near the county border where property has been designated for the initial phase of the venture.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll joined local, state and national officials and business leaders in stepping forward to show support for the project. Carroll spoke about a shared vision with Gov. Rick Scott that prioritizes jobs creation for Florida.

“This regional partnership makes good business sense to me, both as a businessman and as an elected official whose top priority is jobs and the economy,” said U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan in a statement read by SCF President Dr. Lars A. Hafner.

Buchanan’s statement continued: “I applaud State College of Florida, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, Gulf Coast Community Foundation and local economic development councils and counties for joining together on a project that not only will bring practical economic benefits to families and businesses by spurring job growth, but beyond that I foresee The DEAL’s tremendous impact on bolstering our region’s competitive position in the state and country.”

Hafner also read from a statement from Bill Galvano, Bradenton attorney and member of Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team: “I always have been a big proponent of regional collaboration and The DEAL project has all the attributes necessary to elevate our region. By example, the visionaries behind The DEAL model are showing us what can be accomplished when forward-thinking creative people come together to focus on shared goals of creating and retaining jobs and improving the region’s quality of life. My hat’s off to the bold, creative leaders who are making The DEAL concept a reality.”

Regional focus, collaboration and jobs creation were dominant themes by speakers including state Sen. Mike Bennett, Senate President Pro Tem: “County lines cannot be competitive fences when our region’s economic prosperity depends on our joining forces to compete against other regions instead of competing against each other. We have great regional attributes and it’s time to do a better job of packaging them. It’s time to be entrepreneurial. It’s time to be bold. It’s time to make the best DEAL for our region’s economic growth and job creation.”

State Sen. Nancy Detert said, “Regional collaboration on this scale puts our best face forward and says we are open for business, we want you to come to our community, and we will bring to bear all of our collective resources to help you succeed. As chair of the Senate’s Commerce and Tourism Committee, I am excited about the economic boost this promises for our region, and I look forward to seeing The DEAL unfold.”

"This is exactly the type of economic driver that I believe will make our community a leader in new ways of attracting business to Florida and specifically our region," said state Rep. Greg Steube. “I am pleased to be a part of the new chapter in our economic development and excited to see what our community will do with these new resources.”

Describing The DEAL as a one-stop shop to make the process more convenient and efficient for businesses looking to relocate or expand, SMR President and CEO Rex Jensen said, “Economic development is at the core of Lakewood Ranch. It is why we are what we are. We are partnering with these organizations because we are tired of dialogue and ready for action. They are ready to join us in taking action now.”

“The success of this initiative depends on an institution that will work collaboratively with business,” Jensen said. “One that’s nimble and can make decisions quickly. One that is relevant when it comes to workforce development. One that has a proven track record for working with others to bring innovation and technology to this region. That organization is State College of Florida.”

SCF President Dr. Lars A. Hafner said, “The DEAL is a major advancement for SCF as we continue to create a new model of education expansive enough to include a charter middle and high school to associate and baccalaureate workforce degrees. Through this collaboration center, SCF will have even more community impact with added focus on regional prosperity and needed workforce education and training,

And with the 300-plus acres that have been discussed to provide for the vision’s fulfillment, we have boundless opportunity to continue developing to stay ahead of changing economic needs and emerging ideas.”

Ron Allen, Bradenton businessman and chair of the SCF District Board of Trustees, said, “I believe the partners and supporters of this endeavor bring the right mix of energy, intellect and relationships to create a better economic future for our region, and that is the ultimate fulfillment of our mission at SCF.”

“Creating good jobs comes from communities working together as a region,” said Mark Pritchett, Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s vice president for community investment. “At Gulf Coast, we are putting our philanthropic dollars to work across county and municipal borders with an understanding that ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ The DEAL is another bold step to give businesses in our region what they really need to grow.”

Strong bi-county endorsement of The DEAL was demonstrated by Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker and Sarasota County Administrator Jim Ley. Economic development presidents David Sessions, Sarasota County, and Manatee County’s Beth Bender appeared together at the podium to voice their support.

Joining the speakers on stage were Kathy Baylis, founding president and chief executive officer of Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County, Eric Basinger, executive director of Manatee Economic Development Council and Sally Tibbetts, district director/press secretary for Congressman Vern Buchanan.

Phase One of the project is projected to include a 72,000 sq. ft. building with a primary feature the design laboratory, described as a business design, planning and acceleration center. Other space in the building will be reserved for economic development offices from the two counties, CareerEdge, Small Business Development Center, Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, University Partnership Center, and SCF administrative staff, including The DEAL facilitators. Other participants may be added. Project completion is projected within 18 months with a firmer timeline to be determined as plans progress.

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