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Lee County: 30 Years of Business Excellence…and Counting

It has been just over 30 years since the Horizon Council was formed in Lee County and much has changed with the business landscape in our region. Areas that were once dormant and underdeveloped are now home to numerous industries including Department of Defense contractors, apparel companies, cosmetics and beauty companies, technology and data management corporations and advanced manufacturing.

Our area has not only survived but it has thrived, having overcome a recession, a real estate bubble, a global pandemic, and most recently, the devastation from Hurricane Ian. Population in Lee County has risen by 25% in the past 10 years alone as people see the value in calling our county home, with employment up an astounding 35% over that same period. One hundred thousand new jobs have been created in Lee County since 2013 while LinkedIn has named Cape Coral one of the top 20 places in the United States for remote workers.

One of the key factors driving this growth is the region’s strategic geographic location. Southwest Florida’s proximity to major transportation routes, including highways, airports and ports, has made it an attractive destination for businesses looking to establish a strong presence. Personal finance company WalletHub has ranked Lee County top 10 in Best Places to Start a Business. This accessibility has facilitated efficient supply chain management and enhanced connectivity with national and international markets.

The real estate boom in the area has also played a pivotal role in the business sector’s expansion. Property valuation countywide continues to climb, up 11.25% year-over-year. The demand for commercial spaces, from office buildings to retail outlets, has surged, driven by both local entrepreneurs and national corporations seeking to capitalize on the region's economic potential. Four thousand new businesses were licensed in the last year alone. This influx of businesses has not only stimulated job creation but has also contributed to the diversified and robust economy.

Moreover, Southwest Florida’s commitment to fostering a business-friendly environment has attracted investors and entrepreneurs alike. Local governments have implemented policies and initiatives to aid in streamlining the regulatory process, reduce bureaucratic hurdles, and some provide incentives for businesses to set up shop in the region. These efforts have created an environment conducive to innovation and entrepreneurship, fostering the growth of startups and small businesses.

Lead by its strategic location, real estate development, a business-friendly environment, and economic diversification, Southwest Florida stands poised for sustained prosperity, attracting businesses and fostering innovation for years to come.



About the Author

Holly D. Smith is President of the Horizon Foundation, a Sanibel City Council Member and the
former Mayor of Sanibel.