Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Not developers, but business owners, should be thanked

Developers should thank the business owners

In a recent guest column for the Sarasota Herald Tribune Rod Thomson would like the citizens of Sarasota County to thank developers for the buildings we work in, the restaurants we eat in, and the stores we shop in. In his vision of the world, it is the developers who are owed thanks for the success of our community but I believe it is the businesses, restaurants and shop owners who are actually owed our gratitude. For if it were not for their entrepreneurship, the developer would not have an opportunity to build for them. Developers are suppliers of structures but the economy's success depends on the businesses that occupy those buildings. While developers provide temporary jobs and then move on, it is the businesses that actually provide jobs for the long term. Without businesses, commercial construction would cease to exist. In reality, businesses supply the needs of the community and developers provide a service to the businesses.

Mr. Thomson wants us to believe that developers are the largest employers in our community. In Sarasota County, the top five employers are:
  • Sarasota school system
  • Sarasota county government
  • Sarasota Memorial Hospital
  • Publix Supermarkets and 
  • Venice Regional Medical Center. 
The top three employers depend on our taxes to survive. Even if the developers were allowed to double the number of houses in our county, this mix of top five employers will not change. There may be more government employees needed with each new housing development but the opportunities will be the same: low paying or government jobs. 

How does that help our future economy? The current county commissioner's economic policy focusing largely on housing developments is flawed since it does not provide the community with the higher paying long term job opportunities we need for families to succeed in the future.

What about growth? 
Growth is usually measured by government officials as the number of residential houses built. If we count housing units created between 2000-2010, Sarasota County grew faster than Manatee. There were 46,480 new houses built in Sarasota County between 2000 and 2010 while Manatee grew by 36,973 new homes. Sarasota County outpaced Manatee County's growth by almost 10,000 housing units from 2000 - 2010.  The comments made by Mr. Thomson and others in the construction industry that Manatee is better than Sarasota is just not true.  (See comparison chart below on Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte county population, housing and millage rates

Mr. Thomson also cherry picked information from Sarasota's recent citizen's survey to point out a rosy picture of the attitude of citizens. But if we read the survey carefully, citizens are now more concerned about growth and development (21%) than the economy (7%). 

The citizen's rating of our quality of life as 'excellent' fell from 55% in 2012 to 43% in 2014. According to the survey, the concerns about growth and development are the reasons for the 'slippage' of the ratings from 'excellent' to 'good' in the past two years.

Mr. Thomson also neglected to address the cost of development on our community. With low impact fees and changes to the Sarasota 2050 plan, the tax burden is shifting from developers to the current Sarasota County taxpayers. Sarasota County's focus on sprawl will lead to higher taxes to pay for the new infrastructure and government services to support the development. If we have to pay for new development growth, how does the new housing benefit the existing Sarasota County taxpayer?

It is the local concerned citizens and activists that have shaped Sarasota County to what it is today. We voted to tax ourselves to buy environmentally sensitive lands and new parks. The citizens also voted to avoid sprawl by protecting our urban service boundary, which is supposed to control increases in density in the rural areas. It is the activists and citizens that work together to demand a high quality of life from our government. 

Rod Thomson wants us to thank the developers but it is the developers who owe Sarasota's citizens and businesses a world of thanks for the opportunities to serve them.

Important Meetings!
Monday, October 13
6:30 pm social
7:00 Meeting
Meet the Candidates for
County Commission
Districts 2 & 4
Charter Review Board

Location:  Sarasota Garden Club
1131 Blvd of the Arts

County Commission hearing on 2050

Tentative Date:
October 22
possibly after 1:30 pm

Location: 1660 Ringling Blvd

Lourdes Ramirez
PO Box 35231
Sarasota, FL 34242
Office: 941-346-2830

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