Roadmap to a Resilient Region

Guest Correspondence

BY MARK PRITCHETT SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY AUG 17, 2019

Sarasota County is expected to welcome more than 68,000 new residents by 2030—the equivalent of adding the entire population of North Port today. An estimated 2,000 housing units will be built each year over the next decade to house new community members.

The Florida Chamber Foundation figures we must create over 25,000 net new jobs by 2030 just to maintain current employment levels. To diversify our economy, we need even more.

Meanwhile, over the next four decades, sea level in Sarasota County is projected to rise as much 10 to 24 inches, putting much of our housing stock, water supply, infrastructure, and community assets at risk.

Those are just a few of the figures that start to form a future picture of our community in Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s latest “regional scan” report. The scan is our biannual priority-setting process through which we analyze broad and relevant data for a view of long-term trends and emerging issues, then clarify that outlook with the candid perspectives of regional leaders.

What’s clear from our new scan is that the Gulf Coast region will continue to change. Coming trends and disruptors, including those mentioned above, pose significant risks to the health, competitiveness and prosperity of our communities. Our transitioning economy, expanding housing needs, growing congestion, changing climate, increasing cost of living and looming debt and financial insecurity could erode the quality of life and community fabric we enjoy today.

But that is only half the picture—and we get to fill in the rest. The reason Gulf Coast commissions (and shares) a regional scan is to identify common priorities and then articulate an agenda and mobilize the resources to address them. Not only does this research guide Gulf Coast Community Foundation’s funding decisions; it also provides intelligence for community partners, government leaders, and philanthropists to inform their planning, work, and giving. The regional scan tells us where the lines are in the road, so together we can keep heading in the right direction.

The scan considers and helps us build on past progress. A snapshot of a dozen and a half key regional indicators show improvement on important issues from education to homelessness over the past decade. We continue to work to better leverage the region’s creative, cultural, and coastal assets. There’s a reason so many of us come here in the first place.

But our world today is full of uncertainties and risks that could profoundly impact our region. At Gulf Coast, we stand ready to meet these challenges, and we look to our community, business, public and civic partners to imagine new solutions, explore bold ideas, innovate novel approaches, and collaborate in fresh ways to sustain our shared progress.

“Resilience” is the watchword of our latest regional scan. The future of our region is ours to embrace and create. It can be a future by default or a future by design. A future of expanding inequalities or a future in which we close gaps together. A future in which our more vulnerable residents and resources are increasingly at risk or a future in which the Gulf Coast is a more resilient region. In each instance, we choose the latter.

To become a more resilient region, we need action and implementation. The heart of our 2019-20 regional scan recommends critical actions in the areas of leadership, partnership, and community investment. Our vision is a future where we work together to lead nimble approaches to regional priorities and develop agile solutions to close gaps, reduce inequities, and mitigate risks. It is one where we enhance the unique cultural, coastal, and community assets that make our region attractive and competitive. We invite you to join us.

Mark Pritchett is President and CEO of the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.

To view Gulf Coast Community Foundation´┐Żs 2019-20 Gulf Coast Regional Scan, go to GulfCoastCF.org/our-publications.

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