EDITORIAL: It’s Lee County’s time

Mar. 15, 2014 @ 05:00 AM

An upbeat, refreshing feeling emanated from the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting this week. There was a sense of optimism for the organization, for business and industry, and for our community as a whole.

It’s typical at Chamber-type events for the talk to be positive, even if the economy is iffy and the outlook less than stellar. But optimism did abound partly because there’s reason. For example:

• Sanford Mayor Chet Mann talked about new businesses coming to the community and the efforts to land a major industrial employer. He mentioned, too, that Sanford’s bond projects are gearing up, with visible changes on the horizon in the near future — and quality-of-life improvements expected in the long term.

• Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews spoke about the Sanford-Lee County Partnership for Prosperity, which is being created by the merger of the Chamber of Commerce and the Lee County Economic Development Corporation.

• Brad Simpson, chairman of the Chamber Board of Directors, also spoke favorably of the future. (See Simpson’s comments in Sunday’s Herald.)

• And Chamber President Bob Joyce noted that there’s evidence for a better economic future on the horizon. “We believe we’re ready for it, and we believe it’s Lee County’s time.”

No one made a secret of the fact that our unemployment remains high and some local businesses are struggling. The positive shifts in the local economy have been ripples, not waves. And we have other issues demanding our immediate attention, namely a seeming rash of violent crime, that have a bearing on our image to the outside world — and thus our ability to attract the kind of operations we’re wanting.

But there’s reason for us to have confidence — others do. New businesses are being built; Mann, for example, told the audience that retailers Hobby Lobby and Marshall’s have plans locally.

And there’s wide consensus the new Partnership organization will bring together the business community like never before, and belief that its efforts will invigorate efforts to seek out new business and industry.

So like the speakers at this week’s event, we’d do well to embrace the feeling that the conditions are ripe for continuing betterment to our outlook. Such an improvement will help create jobs, help smooth out those economic dips and continue to build businesses in our community.

It’ll take more than just hope to totally turn around the local economy, of course, but it’s more likely we’ll achieve those goals through optimism rather than through the doom and gloom we’ve collectively marinated in during recent years.

Just as our surroundings are coming back to life with the spring season, some warmth and light are coming to Lee County’s economic picture after a long, hard winter.