Lake County commissioners seek a report card on how the local economy is doing.

Lake County is doing more to promote its tourist attractions, like the Lakeside Inn in downtown Mount Dora. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

TAVARES – Virtually every county in Central Florida was hard hit by the collapse of the housing market and the national recession — one of the main reasons why Florida’s unemployment rate has been above the national average for so long.
Now one local county is asking residents to think about how the government has done trying to revive and expand the local economy, courtesy of several upcoming “Year in Review” events that the public is invited to attend.
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners is encouraging residents to attend these events, designed to re-cap the county’s economic development work over the past year, and to highlight future initiatives that are being developed.
For residents who live in the northwest region of Lake County, the program will be held on Wednesday, June 13 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at the Venetian Gardens Community Center, 109 E. Dixie Ave., Leesburg.
For South Lake County residents, it will be on Monday, June 18 from 8:30-10:30 a.m. at Minneola City Hall at 800 U.S. 27.
During both events, commissioners will give residents an update on various initiatives that have been put in place, including the opening of three new Business Opportunities centers. Commissioners will also discuss the county’s renewed focus on promoting tourism and using business incentive programs to create more jobs.
In November 2011, Lake County commissioners approved an ordinance to create an Enterprise Zone Development Agency as an 11-member group that assists in the development, implementation and annual review and update of three enterprise zones.
The idea was to designate certain neighborhoods as Enterprise Zones, and provide incentives for new businesses that relocate there, or existing ones that expand and create more jobs.
The proposed enterprise zones cover three areas of this geographically large county – the central part of the county (Leesburg), the northern end (Eustis) and South Lake County near Clermont and Four Corners (Mascotte).
The way it works is they reach out to local businesses and see what they need in order to grow, and host business roundtables where local business owners get together with county leaders to talk about ways to boost economic development opportunities, and to see what concerns and issues the business owners need addressed.
The county also has a new tourism promotion program, an important segment of the regional economy. South Lake County has its own attractions, including Lake Louisa State Park near Clermont and the Mission Hill Inn at Howey in the Hills, as well as lakes, outdoor activities, and annual events like Bikefest in Leesburg to promote. That program is paying off, because the county has brought in an estimated 90,000 visitors last year, filled 25,000 hotel rooms as a result, and generated a total economic investment of $35 million through tourism and hospitality.
For more information on the “A Year in Review” events, call the Lake County Office of Economic Development & Tourism at 352-742-3918.
Lake County commissioners have also launched a new economic development website, which includes an enhanced user interface, an advanced property finder and a number of upgraded features designed to improve functionality and responsiveness.
Users can log on to get information about the Business Opportunities centers, demographics and statistical data, and informational maps.
Scott Blankenship, director of Lake County’s Office of Economic Development & Tourism, said all of this information could become vital tools for existing businesses, or those interested in relocating there.
“We are extremely excited about the launch of our new economic development website,” he said. “The website is robust, interactive, user-friendly and informative — which exemplifies our mission to provide better service to our business community.”
To view the site, log on to www.businessinlakefl.com.

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