JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER | DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
When Syd Kitson set out to create Babcock Ranch, he wanted to prove that growth and sustainability could go hand in hand.
Thirteen years later, his vision is a reality. And Kitson, the chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners, said the Southwest Florida community is a model for what smart development can look like going forward.
“All these things that we’re talking about are what create community,” said Kitson. “Babcock Ranch doesn’t have gates. This is truly a town.”
Kitson talked about his vision for creating Babcock Ranch during the August 14 Wake Up Naples at Hilton Naples. In his 45-minute conversation with Naples City Manager Charles Chapman, Kitson discussed the process of building a town from the ground up, the importance of preservation and how to create community.
“One of the things we wanted Babcock Ranch to be was multi-generational,” he said. “We didn’t want it to be a bunch of old people like me. We wanted to have that great mix of people.”
The best way to attract young people: Build a school. That was one of the first things Kitson did, at the urging of former Gov. Jeb Bush, a member of the Babcock Ranch board. It proved to be a smart decision. The school quickly had a waiting list and has since moved to a larger location.
Kitson said Babcock Ranch has incorporated a variety of other features, including community gardens and free Wi-Fi outside, to make the town attractive to all types of residents. His team is focused heavily on solar power, becoming the first all solar community in nation, and autonomous vehicles.
These measures have helped achieve the goal of attracting a wide variety of residents. Kitson said more than half the buyers are young families, and a fair share of them work in the community.
Kitson encouraged landowners, developers and governments to “work in partnership” to ensure sustainable communities can flourish in the future.
“I think what Babcock Ranch is proving … is that people what that kind of living,” he said.
To register for future Wake Up Naples breakfast events visit www.napleschamber.org/wakeupnaples
JENNA BUZZACCO-FOERSTER, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
Southwest Florida’s business community racked up several big wins – from money for water quality improvements to legislation aimed at strengthening workforce training – during Florida’s 2019 legislative session.
But for those successes to continue, lawmakers said business and community leaders need to make sure their voices are heard on important issues.
“Collier County is near and dear to our hearts,” said Rep. Byron Donalds. “We want to hear from the people that are doing the work every single day in Collier County. We want to hear issues, especially before we go back to Tallahassee and … we want to be able to hear these things from you, so we can act on them.”
Donalds was joined by Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Bob Rommel at Wake Up Naples on June 12 to discuss the 2019 legislative session. The trio highlighted several pieces of legislation of importance to the business community and discussed a variety of issues ranging from home rule to the state of bipartisanship in Tallahassee.
“We’re different than Washington,” said Passidomo. “We don’t have rancor, and I hope that never happens. When I help my colleagues, it’s helping everybody. You will see us working together and it’s really marvelous, I think.”
Passidomo said her role as Senate majority leader meant she served in a different capacity this year, filing fewer bills and working to make sure bills important to Floridians made it across the finish line.
One of those proposals is a bill that creates pathways for career and technical education in Florida. Lawmakers said it was something the business community has asked for and will help create a talent pipeline for employers across the state.
“For a long time in education we got in this mode of you have to go to college to be successful,” said Donalds. “What we’ve realized is we got it wrong. You can be successful without going to a four-year college or university.”
The legislation provides a pathway for students to graduate from high school, while being in an apprenticeship program. It also establishes a “college and career decision day,” allows a computer science credit to act as a substitute for a math or science credit and requires school districts to offer a half-credit financial literacy course as an elective.
Creating a talent pipeline is a top priority for the Chamber, which works with hundreds of students each year to better prepare them to enter the workforce. Lawmakers highlighted several industries they thought could be areas of growth in the future, including telecommunications, autonomous vehicles and the medical industry.
“We have to be smart,” said Rommel. “One thousand people a day move to Florida.”
Passidomo and Rommel also said they believed the state’s legacy industries will continue to be big economic drivers in Southwest Florida and throughout the state.
“In Florida, no matter what (construction) and hospitality are going to be No. 1 and No. 2,” Rommel said.
Lawmakers also lauded the passage of assignment of benefits (AOB) reform, something which has been attempted in years past, and significant funding for water quality and Everglades restoration. They also encouraged attendees to contact them – and their local counterparts – to tell them about the issues that are important to them.
“Everybody in this room has an interest in something we’re doing,” said Passidomo. “When your group does a call to action, don’t ignore it. Call us. Let us know your thoughts, how you feel and let’s work through it together. I would rather listen to somebody from my community than someone from Jacksonville.”
Want to tell Collier lawmakers how they’re doing? Visit the Chamber’s action center today to easily find your representatives and send them an email.
We like to think big at the Naples Chamber. On March 12 our team members CEO and President Michael Dalby, Director of Government Relations Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, and former state Sen. Garrett Richter went to Tallahassee to speak with state leaders about local issues such as water quality, tourism and economic opportunity.
Our roles as Collier County community members does not stop at the polls. By sharing your opinions and ideas with your representatives and senators in Tallahassee, you help them decide what to do about the issues and pending legislation that affect us all. They value your suggestions and encourage you to express them. Click here for tips on how you can effectively communicate with your legislator on issues that are important to you.
Do you know who your legislator is? Visit the Naples Chamber’s Advocacy Action Center to find your legislator, track legislation and sign up for action alerts.
Florida Senate Majority Leader Kathleen Passidomo, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Dalby and former state Sen. Garrett Richter during a trip to the Florida Capitol.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikkie Fried, Michael Dalby, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and former state Sen. Garrett Richter.
Rep. Ana Maria Rodriguez with former state Sen. Garrett Richter, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Michael Dalby.
CFO Jimmy Patronis, former state Sen. Garrett Richter, Michael Dalby and Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster
Former state Sen. Garrett Richter, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster and Michael Dalby during a trip to the Florida Capitol.