Cutting advisory board upsets North Port business leaders

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NORTH PORT, Fla. - It's upsetting some North Port business leaders. North Port city commissioners could soon vote to do away with their own Business and Economic Advisory Board. The majority of city leaders say it's time for a new approach , while business leaders say the city is not acting in the areas best interest.

"This is not getting rid of economic development in the city of North Port." Mayor Linda Yates along with newly elected commissioners Cheryl Cook and Rhoda Difranco recently voted to do away with the city's six year old advisory board dubbed Bedab. "When people get comfortable with a certain thing and you have something that is done the way we have always done it there is some resistance to some creative ideas."

Former city commissioner Fred Tower is the vice chair of the 26-member board which includes regional leaders from hospitals, educational institutions, foundations, and major developers to name a few. He says the city is getting a reputation. "To outsiders right now I get the impression that basically they are not for economic development."

In fact he says while the importance of economic recovery is at a premium the commission has already stopped the board from meeting. "We have not met since last October. We have a strategic plan which is brand new that we spent $30,000 on and it is just sitting there."

It's upsetting to those in the local business community like Bill Gunnin with the North Port area Chamber of Commerce and it's 550 plus members. "To put a wall around us does not make sense. It does not help the city. It does not help the region. Being the largest city in our region we need to support economic development and growth."

Peter Bartolotta heads the private North Port Economic Development Corporation. He says Bedab helped bring in an emergency room and new shops to the area. He says the dissolution of the board could be costly to all residents. "What they are doing is not encouraging businesses to come here. It's jobs, tax revenues, that's growth, that's improving the property value."

Mayor Yates which has been opposed to government/private partnerships says they're not anti-development and would just like to see more residents from North Port with a say. Perhaps creating a new kind of group which would be able to talk more freely but would have no voting power. "Make it more open for economic development, being business friendly and getting more people involved."

Commissioners will have their second and final reading next Monday July 8th.