Developing relationships in the “Windy City”

By: Christine Ross, MBA, MS, IOM, President & CEO, Bonita Springs Area Chamber of Commerce and Executive Director, Bonita Springs Estero Economic Development Council

This month I took part in a Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance attraction visit to Chicago, Illinois.  As one of the SWFEDA’s partners, I was able to meet commercial realtors from all over the United States and talk to them about the virtues of doing business in Southwest Florida, one of the most business friendly states around. Participants in CCIM’s conference were warm, friendly and very interested in knowing about our region.  We were particularly pleased to find that the CCIM members from Florida are a very highly respected contingency within the group.

As an attraction strategy, I think SWFEDA Executive Director Eric Berglund’s instincts were brilliant.  The program allowed us to network and develop relationships with commercial realtors who deal day in and day out with large corporate clients.  Many of them may already be winter visitors here.  We were able to talk about why corporate outposts in Southwest Florida are such an affordable and intelligent concept.

We talked to them about a scenario we all know is common.  Their corporate client already rents or owns a Southwest Florida condo.  Our per square foot office costs are less than half of what they pay in the “Windy City”.  By opening an outpost in Southwest Florida for a finance or technology division, everyone can enjoy the weather and lower overhead.  Most important of all, the winter getaway can easily become a cost effective hub for the work environment throughout the year.

I just got back on one of the many daily direct flights between Fort Myers and Chicago and can tell you, it was a breeze.  How many locations in the US can you say that about when you venture forth on a business trip?  Not too many.  I think the friendship with our pals in the “Windy City” is poised to grow.

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