Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance: The Evolution of the Revolution

The single greatest philosophical argument in political discourse in the United States circles around the question: “what is the role and scope of government?” Especially in the United States, the federalist system has engendered this eternal question at the intersections of the various levels of government and predicated much study on intergovernmental relations at the local, state, and national level. There are nearly 90,000 established government institutions in the United States.

Adjacent to the federal concept of government is the growing number of nonprofits in the United States. These charities have a long history in this country, being established primarily to help the indigent population during the mid- to late-19th century. Growing to a multi-billion dollar industry, nonprofits have developed to the point where there are schools of management in nonprofit administration. What once was the domain of caring people and churches has now become an industry itself.

The evolution of the federal system from sovereign states and a sovereign United States with limited and enumerated powers has become one of the most glossed over and misunderstood topics in public policy today. Federalism is an institution that offered a revolutionary form of government that perpetuates an ongoing argument over power between those who would be given it for a time.

But it has also left room in the American political and public policy soil for the growth and spread of a new hybrid form of government service delivery: the same nonprofits through privatization of government. These nonprofits make it nearly impossible to determine whether classical, Keynesian or supply side economic theory really works. It asks the question on whether our theories in economic development are sufficient or whether we await another theory to explore further the implications of how our government has evolved.

Nonprofit agencies and organizations have become wise to this as a means for impactful growth. These nonprofits have increasingly become a “form of government service delivery” through grants and appropriations from the governments established to serve the will of the people. Privatization is government finding a way to serve people without being seen as serving the people directly. In part this has attributed to the significant growth and expansion of the nonprofit sector.

The evolution of this growth will be the continual alignment of nonprofits with the government institutions that offer them financial backing; the government will provide the accountability, nonprofits the results. The line will continue to blur between these two once independent sectors. What government once was and did will soon become almost indistinguishable from what nonprofits do – if it hasn’t already.

There is no more charitable endeavor than empowering people to fulfill their goals and dreams.

The Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance is a public-private-nonprofit partnership that has the potential to revolutionize again what the role and scope of the government is and should be doing in terms of delivering services.

The partnership founded in 2013 proposes:

Working with all of our communities, our goal is to facilitate expansion and relocation opportunities and partner with companies to help grow their business. The Alliance is driven by business, government and nonprofit leaders in Lee and Collier counties. Its coverage area also includes Charlotte, Hendry and Glades Counties. In addition to external marketing and outreach, the Alliance provides community connections to address regional economic issues.

Economic development within government has historically been a function of local governments and county administration. There are state agencies with the charge of promoting the economic development within; in Florida it is the Department of Economic Opportunity. Additionally, there are Visitor and Convention Bureaus that are charged with promoting a specific area of economic development in promoting a state’s tourism industry.

There are chambers of commerce multiplied throughout the municipalities and counties, but there hasn’t been a coordinated, regional approach to economic development. In many ways, this appears to be the beginning of a new form of “intrastate federalism.” Instead of competing city-to-city for economic development opportunities, the challenge of the SWFL Economic Development Alliance will be to promote five or six counties as a conglomerate. Instead of arguing for a business to relocate to Port Charlotte, as opposed to LaBelle, these leaders propose Southwest Florida supports economic development and business growth, instead of Central Florida or Miami.

The Alliance has formed as a nonprofit, with major business and community leaders supporting its growth and development. The potential to offer economic development incentives for innovative business growth will be such an opportunity for Southwest Florida’s shared success and prosperity.

Although nonprofit’s started out as humble charities with their focus on bits of impact, primarily with the impoverished, this Alliance proposes raising the tide for a region and focusing on improving the ability of individual’s to become more self-reliant through better opportunities for economic activity. It means jobs – and it’s driven by the people, not just the government.

There was blood in 1776 when the first shots were fired, especially for those first out of the gate, and on top of the hill. There was also an almost secret joy in the possibility that this American experiment might actually be tried. Thought-descendants of these radical thinkers, such as Dudley Goodlette, Mei-Mei Chan, Laura Holquist and the investors, run a risk of getting bloodied.

Any time there is a major shift in thinking and doing, there are casualties.

But this might just be worth it. Find out for yourself.

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