Teresa Jacobs wants to rebrand county

Beth Kassab

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.

He was just appointed to the board of directors at the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University. And next month he will receive the James B. Greene Award from the EDC, the public-private business development group that has been without a permanent leader since August.

Also out of the running for the top EDC job: Crotty's former chief of staff George Rodon, who said he is no longer a candidate for the position.

One possible contender for the job is Carolyn Gosselin, who is back in Orlando and running her own consulting firm after a short stint with Petrizzo Strategic Group in Washington, D.C.

Gosselin said any talk of her being a candidate is "very flattering" but would not discuss whether she is or isn't.

"I would not ever talk about that in the press," said the former chief communications officer for CNL Financial Group.

Will Lake Nona alliance be go-to group?

The economy may have slowed some development plans at Lake Nona's "medical city," but with two hospitals scheduled to open next year, a business group is trying to seize on a new market.

A small group formed the Lake Nona Business Alliance, which is aiming to be the go-to networking group for the southeast Orlando development. My guess is that this group won't be the only one to try to get a hold on the emerging area, but give them credit for acting fast.

"If you go up there right now there are two cattle and a lot of grass," said Jason Edwards, chairman of the alliance's trustees and president of Winter Park-based Edwards Financial Services. "There's an incredible opportunity. How do you plug in on the conversation before it's too late? How do you get in on the ground floor?"

The board of 12 trustees includes executives from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, Hunton Brady Architects, Florida Hospital and Dream Factory Productions.

The Veterans Administration Hospital and Nemours Children's Hospital will bring thousands of jobs to the region.

"Lake Nona is the buzz word," Edwards said. "But there hasn't been a single point of contact for people looking for business relationships there." or 407-420-5448.

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