Lopez Helps Join Redevelopment, Economic Development Efforts

Government

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY NOV 7, 2016

The related missions of community redevelopment and economic development in Manatee County will now operate out of the same government department, and new hire Geraldine Campos Lopez will lead that effort as director. Lopez says connecting the two missions should reap benefits for the region’s future. “We can have more concentrated improvements in an area to benefit everything,” Lopez says.

When companies consider relocation or expansion in an area, owners often need information on the available workforce and what sort of business is allowed in different zoning areas. As Manatee County encourages redevelopment to make certain areas more attractive for commerce, it will benefit planners to know exactly what private sector players need in areas where they want to do business. The hope is that the county can pursue changes that drive focused economic development efforts precisely in places where planning benefits the community. “We will have a focus on job creation and job retention with existing companies here, and we can see what they need to expand,” Lopez says.

The Manatee County Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department will take over redevelopment efforts, particularly in the southwest district. It will also include the Housing and Community Development and Economic Development divisions that previously resided in the Neighborhood Services Department. 

The county particularly wants to find ways to stimulate economic growth in the south end of the county and to utilize urban corridors, Lopez says. Her staff will explore the revitalization opportunities there and look to promoting special nodes and siting business at critical intersections. To assist with workforce development, that could mean mixed-used projects, the sort that Millennials right now seek out in order to live close to where they work. But planners will also see how siting parks and other recreational amenities can make regions more attractive to employers.

County Administrator Ed Hunseker says he brought Lopez on in part because of her understanding of attracting private capital to the area to encourage reinvestment in Manatee County’s urban core. Lopez holds a master certificate in city planning and urban design from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She most recently worked in private consulting but also spent 14 years working for the City of Clearwater, overseeing economic development programs, including incentives. This job attracted her back into the public sector, she says, in part because of the opportunity to work jointly on economic development efforts while also overseeing changes to land development codes and comprehensive planning efforts. 

Pictured: Geraldine Campos Lopez

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