Welcome to our weekly series, "Candidate Question of the Week," on Gulfport Patch. We will be asking Sam Henderson, current Vice Mayor, and Bob Worthington, former City Councilor, a question each week until the City Elections on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.
Both men are vying for your votes for Gulfport Mayor. Below are their responses to our sixth question of the week.
Q: #6 "How can the city and its leaders help lure new businesses to Gulfport?"
"It is important to note that business is driven by private enterprise, and that government is not the impetus behind business in the free market economy. That being said, however, there are a number of things that we can do from the city leadership perspective to make Gulfport a more attractive venue for entrepreneurs. By offering cost-saving incentives and opportunities to potential new businesses, we can be more competitive in bringing merchants to Gulfport. Some ways that we are already attempting this include the recently established PACE program (low interest third-party loans for qualified weather hardening and energy efficiency improvements to commercial buildings), reduction of impact fees (reducing initial costs) and streamlining of the permitting process (reducing operation lag time). In speaking with members of the business community, a common theme is echoed with regards to marketing our city. I think there are unseized opportunities for us to market ourselves as a destination for small businesses, and therefore to a broader range of consumers, and I will continue to collaborate with our local business owners and organizations to best grasp those opportunities. After all, who knows the needs of business better than those in business. We have some storefronts that I would love to see filled, two prime locations on Beach Blvd. for example, but that again requires decision making and investment from the private sector and cannot be solved by the city alone. Along the 49th St. corridor, we are now pursuing grant money from the federal Brownfields program in hopes of assessing and remediating properties with potential environmental liability. The grant funding would allow us to purchase these tough to sell properties, clean them up, and put them back on the market for commercial sale without so many strings attached. This would be an attractor to business in that we would be increasing the value and viability of our commercial properties, while also making physical improvements to the lots themselves. This is only a brief list, and there is always more that can be done. I look forward to finding these solutions collaboratively."
"I think that both the City, the Merchants Association and the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce have been making great strides at attracting new businesses. Within the past few months several new businesses have opened and their businesses seem to be growing. The Chamber's Business Mentoring Program has been a great liaison between new businesses wanting to come into Gulfport and the City, helping to make the opening process go smoother. I know that the City has been working on a streamlined process, cutting the time that it takes a business to open its doors. I would like to see it even more improved."
For More Information:
The municipal elections are on Tuesday, March 12, 2013. The mayor serves a three-year term. The voter registration deadline was Monday, February 11, 2013 for the next city elections.
For more information on how to register visit the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections website.
Both candidates have set up Facebook Pages; here are the links:
Do you want to submit a question for consideration in a future post? Email the Editor at Cherlene.Willis@patch.com.
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