Builders exchange chairman chides EDC on communication abilities
Last month, Sarasota County commissioners shot down a plan that would have given a national roofing company more than a million dollars in state and local tax breaks to move here and create 180 jobs.
Paul Stehle is chairman of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. He says it was an embarrassment for the Economic Development Corporation and it could have been avoided with better communication.
Stehle says the EDC was off-base on two fronts. First off, he says they shouldn't be bringing in companies in the construction business and offer them a tax break.
"It isn't about keeping out the competition, it's about giving them an unfair advantage. I'm an air conditioning contractor. If one wants to come to town, bring it on, I'm fine with that, but I'm not going to give them a tax incentive to do that," he said.
"In the EDC's own words, they say the three pillars of Florida's economy are agriculture, tourism and construction. So what we should recruit to diversify the base is sectors outside those three areas," said Mary Dougherty, executive director of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange.
But Stehle says it's not just the wrong industry to recruit; he says it's also the way the EDC goes about business.
"'No comment.' That's what I think. They don't comment very well. They don't bring themselves to talking to you," he explained.
And he's not the only one who thinks the EDC didn't do well with the roofing corporate relocation, which they called Project Mulligan.
"Communication is critical. We could say there was a misfiring of the spark plugs, the order of the firing of the spark plugs, but now we can look at it and see how we can make the process better," said Sarasota County Commissioner Paul Caragiulo.
We wanted to find out how the EDC President Mark Huey planned to make the process better for next time. We wanted to explain how the EDC chooses industries to pursue. However, after a flurry of emails where Huey wanted to know the questions asked as well as who else would be interviewed, Huey eventually declined to make himself available. We even offered to highlight a recent success story, any time, any day -- but he stopped responding.
A week later, we tried again, and this time we were given the following statement:
"The overarching goal of the EDC of Sarasota County is to be an assist with business growth throughout the community, from startups to established companies to those who are considering relocating here. The Board of County Commissioners may be revisiting certain policies and practices it has in place for attracting new and assisting local companies. There will be no further comment from the EDC on this matter until the Board of County Commissioners gives further direction on our next steps."
Sources close to the EDC Board say at a recent management retreat, the word "communication" was stressed. We also reached out to two of the board members, but neither returned our phone calls.
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