By next summer Immokalee could have a new economic blueprint for its future as "Florida in the 21st Century."
Development of the plan will be a joint project of the Immokalee CRA, Collier County government and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, a five-county intergovernment body based in Fort Myers.
The plan will analyze the economic strengths and weaknesses of Immokalee, evaluate realistic opportunities for growth which complement the region's rural setting and develop a strategic plan for sustainable economic development in the decades to come. The project will cost $25,000 and will be funded by a state grant.
"Immokalee's economy focused primarily on agriculture in the past with many farms and packaging plants in the surrounding area," explains documents prepared for the DEO. "While agriculture remains an important economic base, other economic activities are need to bring diversity and new opportunities.
"Recent improvements include the new Ave Maria subdivision less than 10 miles away, plans for a new Walmart store, construction of a new hotel a the Seminole Immokalee Casino, infrastructure investment by the Immokalee CRA to improve sidewalks and drainage and a new vocational school," the documents continues. "Although these are small developments they indicate an expanding community.
"The Immokalee CRA would like to incorporate these improvements, along with other programs it offers to expand and grow the economy and create more opportunities for Immokalee residents in a unified, focused strategy."
Those "other programs" to which the documents refer include the community's designation as a Foreign Trade Zone, a HUB Zone, a Florida Enterprise Zone, a Rural Area of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC) and its inclusion in the Florida Heartland Rural Economic Development Initiative (FHREDI).