Teresa Jacobs wants to rebrand county

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At Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs' second job summit last week, she heard everything from how the county needs to offer domestic partner benefits to how government needs to keep weekend or night hours to increase access for business owners.

It was an earful. And Jacobs, barely a month into her term, listened more than she talked.

One point she made loud and clear, however, is that she wants to "rebrand Orange County" to broaden its appeal to businesses.

That, she said, would be a "major goal" of the six remaining jobs summits she plans to hold before the end of May.

On Friday, at the summit that targeted Winter Park, Eatonville, Maitland and part of Pine Hills, some early themes emerged for changes businesses are behind.

And they seemed to echo the same economic development themes that are repeated so often when talk turns to creating jobs: education, county infrastructure and quality of life issues.

There wasn't much talk about cutting taxes.

Instead, businesses seemed to want fair policies and incentives and underscored the need for an educated and trained workforce.

Craig Hagen, who handles government affairs for videogame company Electronic Arts, said a county policy that offers domestic partner benefits would make it easier for local businesses to hire. It would be easier to recruit talented employees, he said, if they know the local government has made a statement in favor of fair benefits.

Recently, commissioners have looked at the costs associated with the benefits; Jacobs has supported moving the issue forward and could bring it before the commission in the next few months.

Hagen said domestic partner benefits are "necessary for recruiting" and that his company has offered them for 15 years. And he wasn't alone in that sentiment.

His comment drew hearty applause from the audience.

And then there were the more mundane, but practical considerations. One bank loan officer, for example, said her clients need access to some government offices or even resources such as the Disney Entrepreneur Center on nights and weekends so they don't lose valuable time during business hours.

That's another good sensible suggestion. In a few months, once she's done listening, it will be interesting to see how Jacobs turns the talk into action.

Crotty not looking at EDC job

Speaking of mayors, former Orange County Mayor Crotty, who had been considered a candidate to take over the Metro Orlando Economic Development Commission, said last week he's not in the running.

"I'm pursuing other things," he told me.

Last week he activated his real estate broker's license with retail leasing and management firm Crossman & Company. He also launched his own venture called Richard Crotty Consulting Group.

Crotty joked that he spent the first six weeks after he left public office "working on my face and physique" and losing about 12 pounds. Now he's ready to get back to business.

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