Perhaps the watershed moment, when Hertz announced they were moving their corporate headquarters from Park Ridge, N.J. to Estero in 2013 it signaled a change in scope for the area’s economy, in an attempt to diversify beyond being known simply for the area’s beaches.
Unemployment climbed over 13 percent in Collier County in 2010, as the area’s key industries, hospitality, retail, and construction, were among the hardest hit during the recession.
“That’s something that we’re working very hard on,” said John Cox, President of the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce. “We’re trying to help visitors who come here who say they like to come back here and open a business. We’re directing them to our incubator-accelerator locations, or otherwise working to land them in Naples.”
The Collier County Business Incubator is part of a major push to add new businesses and new industries to the area. The program provides a landing place for entrepreneurs to work on bringing new and innovative ventures to life. One recent addition, Insulin NG, joined the accelerator project in March, where they are working on an early detection and prevention system for diabetes after first talking to the Chamber.
“Insulin NG is a German company that sent a direct message to our website,” said Cox. “We directed them to the incubator-accelerator project, and so far so good. We’re receiving a number of direct inquiries about a number of distinct projects.”
Innovation is occurring outside of the county-sponsored projects as well. Azimuth Technology, which hosted Governor Rick Scott for a factory tour and venue for the February jobs report last Thursday, is a manufacturing firm that builds components for firms in the defense industry. Azimuth grew to 90 employees in less than three years thanks in part to a state initiative to suspend sales taxes on industrial machinery. The firm has plans to expand into a larger space soon.
Cox believes the outlook for the area as new businesses start up in new fields is rosier than ever, and will go a long way in insulating Southwest Florida from economic downtowns in the future.
“There is a dynamic expansion of the economy in Southwest Florida, and ground zero is Naples. Naples works, and when Naples works, opportunities happen.”
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