North Port

By Hannah Wallace November 30, 2010

North Port’s time has come. Situated between Tampa and Naples and for decades thought of as a small town, North Port has emerged in the last 10 years as a city of enormous potential and drive. This is a city that welcomes people and the businesses that they bring. In North Port, growth is a good thing.


The City of North Port invites you to visit with us and discover all the amenities and assets that make our community one of Florida’s most dynamic and attractive cities. We are located in Sarasota County, Fla., and with a population of 56,000 residents and a land area of 104 square miles, we have grown to become the largest city in the county. As a young, emerging city, our image and personality have been defined as a community full of potential and vitality where anything is possible. We have been planning for the future and investing in the things that are essential to our growth and viability. Over the past 10 years we have endeavored to improve our roadways; expand our wastewater treatment capacity; build new fire stations, parks and recreation facilities; and increase our sewer and water infrastructure to accommodate new development opportunities.

Our strategic location in Southwest Florida between Tampa and Fort Myers allows visitors and tourists convenient access to all of Florida’s wonderful attractions, such as its beautiful Gulf Coast beaches that are just minutes away. Tampa’s Busch Gardens and Disney World in Orlando are an easy drive from North Port; sportsmen (and sportswomen) can enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, golfing and other activities that make Florida the destination for millions of visitors and tourists annually. A special attraction, unique to the City of North Port, is Warm Mineral Springs. This 14-acre, 230-foot-deep natural spring is infused with the richest density of minerals of any known warm-water spring in the world and has attracted national and international tourists.

In response to the changing [and challenging] economy, we have embarked on aggressive strategies to diversify our business sector and employment base. With the help of local citizens, the City’s elected leadership and City staff, we have developed and implemented projects aimed at retaining our existing businesses while nurturing new businesses and promoting entrepreneurship. We have focused on five target industries (healthcare, education, light manufacturing, hospitality and retail trade) that give us the opportunity to attract new businesses that are aligned with our current needs as a community. These industries also take advantage of the skills of our young, educated workforce and help us direct our business recruitment efforts on sectors where future job growth is projected. We also understand the value and importance of marketing as an effective tool in creating awareness of our assets, amenities and advantages, and we have created a solid strategic marketing plan to help position North Port in regional, national and international markets.

We hope you will take time to visit with us and learn how you can be a part of a growing, vibrant, attractive community. We believe that in North Port, you can achieve anything!


Jim Blucher, Chair

North Port City Commission

The Business and Economic Development Advisory Board

The Business and Economic Development Advisory Board was created to develop a public-private framework to encourage a collaborative approach toward business and economic development. An advisory board to the North Port City Commission, it is responsible for establishing long-term and short-term goals, working to improve the business climate and creating task forces to seek solutions to business climate issues.


Board Members

William L. Murray,


Darlene Wedler-Johnson, vice chair

Bill Woeltjen

Steve Sachkar

Darcey O’Brien

Joanie Jeannette

Denise Courtney

Bill Diekman

Eric Anderson

Rae Dowling

Rick Carlisle

Zia Butt

Thomas Danahy

Beth A. Mayberry

Anne Merrill

Teri Hansen

Caroline Zucker

Lora Kosten

Jim Blucher

Tom Jones

Terry Lewis

Kathy Baylis

Shannon Staub

Kevin Russell

Fred E. Tower III

Steve Boone

Jose Castaneda


North Port’s star is rising

In 1954, General Development Corporation created North Port after purchasing 100,000 acres, carving them up into thousands of home sites and advertising these parcels to shivering Northerners for “10 down and $10 a month for 10 years.” The city incorporated in 1959 with only 21 residents, all of them GDC employees, who were enticed by a year’s free rent.

It’s taken 50 years, but North Port is now the largest municipality in Sarasota County, with 55,759 residents, and the fourth largest in Florida; it is also the fourth largest geographically in Florida, encompassing 104 square miles of land, ranging from urban to beautiful rural equestrian estates.

Close to I-75 and three international airports, North Port is attractive to newcomers and businesses in Southwest Florida for its young population (the median age is 38), affordable housing, new shopping, new schools and recreational opportunities close to Gulf beaches, Myakka River State Park and the world-famous Warm Mineral Springs. And because North Port has invested $1 billion in new schools, parks and infrastructure, the look of this emerging, youthful city is fresh and modern, and the energy is palpable.

All of this activity is not an accident. The City of North Port and its citizens wanted a vibrant community, and they gave this mandate to the city’s Economic Development Division. In the last three years, the Economic Development Division has assembled the public-private Business and Economic Development Advisory Board (BEDAB), which has forged collaboration among government, private business and citizens to make sure growth can occur quickly and seamlessly when and where it makes sense. The board has identified five industries that it wants to attract. Companies that work in education, healthcare, hospitality, light manufacturing and retail will find a friendly business environment. This year, new businesses, a university campus and medical facilities have all opened their doors in this up-and-coming community.

“North Port was the perfect economical and personal choice for us to open our practice,” says Dr. David Flagel, president of Flagel Pediatric & Family Medicine, which just opened in August 2010. “We are very happy to live within the community as well. The city provides a balanced mix of people of all ages and backgrounds. We have been very impressed with the ongoing efforts to beautify North Port and to make living here so very convenient.”

Allan Lane, manager of the Economic Development Division of the City of North Port, says more professionals and businesses are recognizing North Port’s resources and potential. “We really do believe we can achieve anything,” he says.


New marketing energy attracts major stakeholders

While North Port boasts a median age of 38, a booming population, a low cost of living and real estate, and large stretches of undeveloped land, more people and companies need to be aware of the city’s welcoming and accommodating business climate.

Hoping to announce its presence on a grander scale, North Port recently commissioned North Star Destination Strategies to develop a new advertising campaign that promotes the city’s assets in the local, national and international marketplace.

“Unlike more established cities that are deeply set in their ways, [North Port] is still flexible and full of opportunity,” reads the city’s marketing report.

“Here, residents and business owners aren’t just names in the phone book, they are vital members of a city that is still being shaped by the people who live and work in it. In North Port, everyone is invited to take ownership. In other words, the fact that the city is so open to possibility makes it easy for anyone to ‘make it yours.’”

The city has already attracted major players who like its young workforce and the aggressive business incentives offered by the City of North Port Economic Development Division.

Perhaps the most influential of these was the 2009 debut of the 52,000-square-foot Sarasota Memorial Hospital emergency care facility. In April 2010, Venice Regional Medical Center and Gulf Coast Medical Group followed suit by opening a walk-in urgent care facility. These cornerstones in the North Port healthcare community were joined by Florida Cancer Specialists, Seeport Optometry and Skinsmart Dermatology.

“We see the value that healthcare services and healthcare professionals will add to North Port since it is an industry that is aligned with the current needs of our community, takes advantage of the skills of our young, educated workforce as well as the workforce within the region, and directs our business recruitment efforts on a sector [healthcare] where future job growth is projected,” North Port Economic Development Manager Lane told North Port Magazine.

But healthcare isn’t the only industry that has embraced North Port. In fact, some believe that North Port’s healthcare boom is partly owed to a similar boom in its education industry.

In August, the University of South Florida, Sarasota-Manatee campus relocated to a shiny new facility on Pan American Boulevard. There, the university offers programs in arts and sciences, business and education. And State College of Florida serves North Port at its 100-acre South Sarasota campus at 8000 S. Tamiami Trail.

The city also recently welcomed the $114-million, 120,000- square-foot Cocoplum Village Shops, which opened with a Publix Super Market as its anchor during the summer. Since then, Cocoplum’s tenants have swelled and include a mix of retail, including GNC, Little Caesars and Aqua Superstore, and will soon welcome Game Stop, Subway and Zoom Tan.

Construction for Cocoplum’s phase II is already underway.


You’re covered: North Port offers business expansion incentives and programs

The decision to relocate, expand or open a business can raise many questions—and perhaps some anxiety—because of the uncharted courses that many company leaders encounter in the process. Issues might involve zoning, fees that add significant costs to the project or gaps in knowledge that can often surface at crucial or inopportune moments.

The City of North Port offers an array of tools that promise to assist any size project with a business-friendly approach to economic development, all in a budget-minded, timely and simplified manner.

“It is crucial to businesses to get upfront incentives when they are relocating or expanding,” says Ruth Buchanan, economic development coordinator for the City of North Port. “Every project is unique, and therefore we will be flexible and accommodate the needs of each business we work with.”

Here are examples of programs and initiatives that the city has created to help businesses make decisions with more peace of mind, confidence and expediency.

Ad valorem tax exemption: This is an incentive program offered by the City of North Port and Sarasota County for which qualified businesses can apply to waive ad valorem taxes (those based on the value of the real estate). The program allows for up to 100 percent ad valorem property tax exemption and tangible property tax exemption for up to 10 years.

Fast-track permitting: Obtaining construction permits can drag on for months in some communities, but the City of North Port has streamlined the process to help shorten the wait time.

Impact fee reduction: This incentive greatly decreases the amount a business pays—on top of construction costs—in impact fees, which help mitigate the increased use of public services, such as schools, and infrastructure such as roads, caused by the development.

 Revolving loan guarantee fund: This program helps existing small businesses expand, assists out-of-town business operators who relocate to North Port and supports entrepreneurs who invest in its future. For qualifying businesses, the city guarantees loans up to $50,000 made by local lenders.

The Entrepreneurial Academy: A nine-week training program for entrepreneurs who are just starting out or for those who have been in business less than a year. The three-hour workshops assist entrepreneurs in evaluating their ideas and understanding basic business disciplines. To date, there have been 35 graduates of the academy, which has been offered three times.

The Lunch and Learn Workshops:  Monthly free events, which are scheduled from March through August and feature topics designed to help business owners improve their competitive edge and entrepreneurial skills in the current economic climate. Topics include marketing, financing, doing business with the city, human resource management and more. Since its inception in 2009, the program has served 230 attendees.  ■


Just the FAQs


Population: 55,759

Median resident age: 38.7

Percent of residents who are retirees: 17

Average household size: 2.52



Median cost of a single-family dwelling: $93,000

Median monthly cost of a two-bedroom apartment: $664



(For population 25 years and over)

High school or higher: 88 percent

Bachelor’s degree or higher: 16.2 percent

Graduate or professional degree: 5.7 percent



Estimated median household income in 2008: $50,684

Per capita personal income: $24,162

Residents with income below poverty level in 2008: 4.2 percent


Race and Ethnicity

White Non-Hispanic: 89.1 percent

Black: 5.6 percent

Hispanic: 5.2 percent

American Indian: 0.4 percent

Two or more races: 2.5 percent

Other race:

1.5 percent

Number of foreign-born residents: 6,567



5 elementary schools

2 middle schools

1 high school

1 K-8 charter school

Total enrollment: 8,783 students



Flagel Pediatric & Family Medicine

Chief executive:

David A. Flagel, M.D.

Number of employees:  4

Founded: August 2010

Husband-and-wife physicians Drs. David and Susan Flagel opened Flagel Pediatric and Family Medicine last summer. It is North Port’s first combined practice to provide medical care for everyone, from newborns through the elderly. Susan Flagel attended medical school at Des Moines University, is board certified in pediatrics and, in addition to her practice, has been moonlighting as a pediatric hospitalist and in a pediatric emergency department. David Flagel served 15 years as a Navy Hospital Corpsman, went to medical school at American University of the Caribbean and Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. He is board certified in family medicine.


Davidson Insulation & Acoustics, Inc.

Chief executive:

Edward E. Blanchard III

Number of employees: 40

Founded: December 1977

Davidson Insulation & Acoustics, Inc. is a family-owned and operated company that has been doing business in Florida for the last 33 years. Headquartered in North Port, the company has grown to include four locations throughout Florida. The North Port corporate office is a state-of-the-art facility that includes more than 6,000 square feet of office space along with a 36,000-square-foot warehouse. Davidson specializes in the installation of many building products, including all types of residential and commercial insulation, spray foam insulation, acoustical ceilings, fireplaces, ventilated wire and wood closet shelving, and built-in closet storage system.



We Believe in North Port

We asked some North Port businesses and stakeholders to talk about their missions and future.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Inc.

Q: Tell us about your company’s history.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Inc. has been in business in the Venice/Nokomis area for 28 years. Our service area currently is generally South Tampa to Fort Myers. We have worked as far south as the Florida Keys and Bahamas and as far north as North Carolina, Tennessee, Montana, Colorado and Texas. We are located on River Road in Venice, where we have been for 16 years.

Q: Describe your company’s main industry, products, or services.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Inc. is made up of six different departments: The Garden Center, Full-service Gardening Maintenance, Irrigation Installation and Service, Hardscape, Landscape Construction and The Design Department, which has a full staff of landscape architects, designers and CAD techs. Our staff is available with the expertise to design any project, including exterior living areas, residential or commercial.


Q: How does your community involvement influence your company’s success?

Hazeltine Nurseries, Inc. has always given back to the community. Hazeltine owners and staff are active on many local boards, committees and organizations, including Selby Gardens, South County YMCA, South County Habitat for Humanity, The Florida House, Venice Main Street, All Faiths Food Bank, Big Brothers and Big Sisters. Volunteerism and community service are just part of the culture that Hazeltine Nurseries’ foundation is based on.

Hazeltine Nurseries, Inc.

P.O. Box 236, Venice, FL 34284, and

2401 N. River Road, Venice, FL 34292

(941) 485-1272  |

President and/or Owner: Stephen Hazeltine


Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County

Q: The EDC assists companies that are relocating to or expanding in Sarasota County. What are the significant trends in that part of your business?

Most of the interest is coming from businesses in the region that are expanding and seeking to lower their operational costs. Sarasota County, including North Port, provides those opportunities. Lower real estate costs and the performance-based incentives we can offer through local and state government are encouraging some high-growth businesses to go ahead with facility expansion and hiring. Incentives are not the primary driver for these decisions, but they do help accelerate the companies’ growth plans.


Q: It has been a tough couple of years for the local economy. Is the EDC identifying any bright spots?

We have identified some encouraging signs in the Sarasota County economy. Between July and September, four substantial businesses assisted by the EDC announced plans to add more than 400 employees over the next few years. These are high-growth companies paying higher-than-average wages. They include Tervis Tumbler,, Sanborn Studios and Sarasota Medical Products. The diversity of industries represented also is a healthy trend.


Q: There was a lot of excitement around the arrival of Sanborn Studios. How do you see that newcomer contributing to our economic recovery?

The arrival of the Sanborn television and film production studio could be a major catalyst for more production activity and growth in related jobs in our community. Combined with what’s already happening at local colleges and universities in digital filmmaking, Sarasota County is creating a pipeline for attracting more productions.


Economic Development

Corporation of Sarasota County

2601 Cattlemen Road, Suite 102

Sarasota, FL 34232

(941) 309-1200  |

President and CEO: Kathy Baylis


ServPro of Englewood, North Port and Cape Haze

Q: Tell us about your company’s history.

I relocated from Louisville with my life partner, Mark, and started ServPro of Englewood, North Port and Cape Haze in May 2005. We service primarily North Port and its surrounding areas; Englewood; the portion of Charlotte County that includes Rotonda, Riverwood, Gulf Cove and South Gulf Cove, Cape Haze, Placida and Grove City; and the islands, including Manasota Key and Palm Island.


Q: Describe your company’s main industry, products, or services.

Emergency services include drying and restoring walls, contents and structural components in homes and businesses that have experienced water damage from leaking pipes, appliances and storm damage. We remove mold damage and return a home to normal when a water damage or humidity problem was not discovered before microbial contamination occurred. We also provide soot and smoke clean-up after fires. We offer build-back services or coordinate with the owner’s contractor to restore the structure to its original condition. Much of our work involves insurance-related claims, and we work closely with the carrier and adjuster to make sure the job is done right and cost-effectively.


Q: What can the economic development offices do to improve the business environment?

As a former Certified Economic Developer, I see four important components a community can offer to attract and grow companies: an available skilled, educated workforce; suitable industrial/warehouse locations with proper zoning and infrastructure in place; a streamlined permitting process; and a quality of life/cost of living environment that makes living and working in the community an asset. The economic development offices in our area work hard to develop and improve resources in all these areas.

ServPro of Englewood, North Port and Cape Haze

197 S. McCall Road, Englewood, FL 34223

(941) 460-1822 |

President: Kathleen Kessler


Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice

Q: How important is the regional economy to your own organization’s success?

At Gulf Coast, we invest millions of dollars in North Port through grants to bring higher-education opportunities, improve access to healthcare, fund arts programs, strengthen civic leadership and more. A vibrant, diversified economy is vital to all areas of community life that we touch—arts and culture, health and human services, education, civic engagement and the environment.


Q: How does community involvement influence your organization’s success?

Because we are a community foundation, we need involved and engaged citizens in order to succeed. In North Port, we trained community leaders who went on to create a citizens’ master plan for their community. We’ve also seen residents, inspired by a North Port donor who left a sizable gift for her community a few years ago, rally their neighbors in charitable giving.


Q: What are some unique characteristics of North Port for business?

North Port is the largest city in Sarasota County in both population and land mass, with what are among the lowest impact fees and utility and land costs in Southwest Florida. A young, skilled workforce and opportunities for additional training and education through local colleges and universities add to its appeal as an ideal location to do business. We’re inspired by and committed to North Port’s potential.


Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice

601 Tamiami Trail S., Venice, FL 34285

(941) 486-4600  |

President and CEO: Teri A. Hansen


State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota

Q: What is your history and mission?

Established in 1957, State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota (SCF) is the region’s first and largest public college, with annual enrollment at 36,000 college-credit students plus 25,000 annual participants in professional development and enrichment classes at campuses in Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Venice and eCampus. SCF’s 100-acre campus in south Sarasota County, with double-digit growth over the last decade, is located equidistant from North Port, Venice and Englewood.


Q: How has your institution changed over the past year?

Now a state college, SCF expanded its mission beyond associate-level programs to add workforce baccalaureate degrees. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree started in January 2010. Starting in 2011 are bachelor degrees in Early Childhood Education, Energy Technology Management, Health Services Administration, Homeland Security and Public Safety Administration. Seven additional degrees have been proposed for 2012. SCF is the nation’s first college offering a collegiate school, which will offer a tuition-free pathway from sixth grade through the baccalaureate degree.


Q:What are your plans for growth?

Keeping a sharp focus on its core mission, SCF remains an open-access institution while continuing to develop partnerships. SCF’s new era in higher education has paved the way for partnerships with local businesses, universities and municipalities to enhance workforce development and revive the regional economy. By embracing technology, SCF is expanding access to top-quality education when, where and in the manner students find most accessible and applicable to the 21st-century lifestyle.


State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota

Bradenton, Lakewood Ranch, Venice

(941) 408-1300  |

President: Dr. Lars A. Hafner


Business Ethics Alliance of Southwest Florida

Q: What are your plans for growth?

We are planning a national conference on April 13-14, 2011, which will establish us as a leader in the practice of business ethics and integrity in our communities and the country. We anticipate developing regional offices that will expand our commitment and enable our growth.


Q: What can the economic development offices do to improve the business environment?

Promote our region as having great ethical companies and community leadership that empowers and supports that. For most companies looking to locate in Southwest Florida, this is very important!


Q: How does your community involvement influence your organization’s success?

We have been surprised and honored by the support our community has given our organization. At our monthly lunches, new faces keep showing up to demonstrate their commitment to our success. People know what makes a difference and what doesn’t.


Business Ethics Alliance of Southwest Florida

P.O. Box 1017, Osprey, FL 34229

(941) 387-5363 |

Founder: Terry Miller



Heron Creek Golf & Country Club

Q: Describe your company’s main industry, products or services.

Heron Creek offers 27 holes of championship golf, a world-class practice facility, a clubhouse with dining/meeting rooms, golf shop, fitness center, lighted Har-Tru tennis and swimming. Memberships with no upfront fees are available with our current program, as well as semi-private access.


Q: How has your business changed over the past year?

The club has expanded dining hours in the main clubhouse, and we have reopened the popular Hideaway Courtside Café. Our newest addition is The Golf Academy at Heron Creek, which will offer the most comprehensive playing and instructional program in the area at our world-class practice facility. We have added 100 new members so far this year, and are launching our most aggressive membership program, offering waived initiation fees and special pricing on golf memberships.


Q: What are your plans for growth?

At a time when most clubs are contracting, reducing their hours and cutting services, we are growing, expanding our hours and adding new services to provide the best membership value to be found anywhere. The best thing is that you can experience all that Heron Creek has to offer for yourself, as the club is open to nonmembers as well while we fill the membership roster.


Heron Creek Golf & Country Club

5301 Heron Creek Blvd. North Port, FL 34287

(941) 240-5100 |

President/Owner: Hans Juergen Reichardt



USF Sarasota-Manatee

Q: Tell us about your institution’s history.

Since the founding of the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee in 1975, the university has served the higher educational needs of the community, businesses and organizations by continually producing well-educated, critical thinking graduates who become leaders in our community, nation and world. As the area’s comprehensive public state university, our outstanding educational programs have positioned us to continue leading in the area’s intellectual and economic growth.


Q: How has your business changed over the past year?

We’ve had a presence in Venice, North Port, Englewood and surrounding areas since 2004 and have grown our enrollments from 50 to more than 633. This tremendous growth led us to open our new instructional site in August 2010, and we are looking forward to continued growth. With over 2,200 alumni in the area and our new programs we are officially turning this area into Bulls Country!


Q: Describe your institution’s main industry, products or services.

USF Sarasota-Manatee is a leader in higher education with a world-class faculty. Our new location offers about 35 in-person classes and a variety of online and web-blended courses. We offer undergraduate degrees in business, social sciences, elementary education, psychology, hospitality, information technology, and criminology and a master’s degree in educational leadership. We also provide video conferencing to and from this location to our main campus on the Sarasota-Manatee county border.


USF Sarasota-Manatee

5920 Pan American Blvd. North Port, FL 34287 and 8350 N. Tamiami Trail

Sarasota, FL 34243

(941) 426-7330 |

Regional Chancellor: Dr. Arthur Guilford

Filed under
Show Comments