PARTNERSHIP FOR PROSPERITY: Name picked for Lee's new economic development entity

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

The county's new economic development organization — which will merge the Lee County Economic Development Corporation and the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce — has officially been named.

A steering committee that has worked on the organization for many months, consisting of a host of government, community and business leaders, voted last week to call the organization the Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity during its recent meeting.

The next step in the organization's development is a fundraising assessment, set to begin next week.

"Several points of progress were made at the steering committee meeting last week," said Crystal Morphis, interim EDC director.

The steering committee will serve as the Partnership for Prosperity's board of directors for at least one year, she said, and is tasked with hiring a CEO by July 1.

"At our next steering committee meeting, we will start talking about that executive search process," Morphis said.

The organization's program of work will not be finalized until the end of the fundraising assessment — which includes two months of gauging business leaders' interest and likelihood of financially supporting the organization — but Chamber President Bob Joyce said he's expecting good feedback.

"We have done plenty of planning, and with all of the previous work, I do think we will have a positive response," he said. "However, I am anxious to hear from industry leaders about what else our community leaders should do."

The organization is designed to be a public-private partnership, with funds contributed by local governments and others.

The Partnership for Prosperity will tentatively be broken into five subcommittees focused on economic development, chamber-like activities, marketing and promotions, agriculture and investor advisors, according to a presentation by Joyce to chamber members last week.

"What we will get from this initial assessment is feedback from the community on whether these are elements they support, and what things should be added," he said.

While there are some who worry the organization's timetable is either too slow or too rapid, Joyce said the EDO is moving purposefully.

"I think you have to look at it from a standpoint of change," he said. "This sets the tone for a long time into the future, and, I think, we need to be very deliberate setting up this organization."

Morphis said she was excited to continue the board's progress, adding there was significant community interest and attendance at county-wide meetings, and several interested parties completed online surveys.

"I have been, as an outsider, impressed with the level of community support and community involvement in the planning of the organization," Morphis said.