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Gulfport Mayoral Candidates Weigh in on Luring Businesses to Town

As part of our coverage of the Gulfport City Elections this March, we are asking both Gulfport Mayor Candidates a "Question of the Week." Below is each candidate's answer to our sixth question.

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?"

Sam Henderson

"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."

Bob Worthington

"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:

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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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Rainbow Energy February 27, 2013 at 08:42 PM
There are a number of business-friendly opportunities our government can offer to prospective businesses, but I believe the businesses already established in Gulfport could do more to attract quality customers and other businesses. Many Gulfport businesses have brought much needed attractive touches to their establishments, but a handful of others offer customers peeling paint, dirty windows, dying plants, dilapidated restrooms, unimaginative display windows and merchandise areas, poorly prepared food, and poorly trained staff, a disservice to the many Gulfport businesses trying hard to build a quality repeat and new-customer base. There are a good number of Gulfport businesses who respect themselves and their customers. They are not here just to take our money, but to add to the attractive and vibrant ambiance of Gulfport. We need more forward-looking, creative business folks who can think out of the box, not be trapped in stagnating, uninspiring, poorly run businesses. And paint, plants, polish and a little pizzazz would be a good start.
Rainbow Energy February 27, 2013 at 08:47 PM
Can anyone get the Deli on Beach Blvd to put attractive fencing or wall around the huge, ugly, dirty, green, commercial dumpster that sits out front on our main business street. Don't bother calling codes and compliance; their excuse is the business does not have access to the alley. There always is an excuse. Can someone come up with a solution?
Andrew Allan March 04, 2013 at 04:24 PM
A good start would be to explain to citizens WHY the city wants to attract new businesses. Tell us how it benefits Gulfport citizens overall to spend tax dollars disproportionately in one area over another. Many Gulfport residents would be happy with keeping our little burg as a bedroom community only...especially if it meant lower taxes.
Rick Boze March 05, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Why attract new businesses is simple, TAXES. Little burg less taxes, zoning keeps it a little burg, less taxes needs new taxes from somewhere. Unless the businesses look safe, clean and nobody hanging around outside, no body is going to stop. A lot of people don't know about Gulfport period. We have to attract people from 22nd or 49th, so it is important that these businesses promote the city as well. Maybe get the kids from Middle School and High School to help spruce up these streets. Of Course it would help if both sides of 49th had more police presentence as well. Simple solutions that can be done now without Town meetings to approve. Do we have a garden club?

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