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The City of North Port hosted a regional Economic Recovery & Resiliency Workshop on Monday with the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), and myriad federal agencies mandated to the economic recovery of post-disaster support. Invitees from Charlotte, Manatee, and Sarasota counties included local and county government, economic, non-profit, and tourism partners.

Federal and state agency representatives engaged with regional attendees to discuss transportation, stormwater management infrastructure, and workforce housing issues that have come to the forefront as a result of the destruction caused by #HurricaneIan. One of the most emphasized points made by each agency was the need to collaborate regionally to better leverage potential assets for the reconstruction and hardening of an area’s resources.

The workshop featured discussions around hardening vital infrastructure in the region to withstand heavy rains and powerful storms. In North Port, two major transportation corridors for east-west traffic became nonoperational due to Hurricane Ian and the City experienced 15 – 20 inches of rain, causing the Myakkahatchee Creek to rise by over eight (8) feet, flooding citywide. North Port is not alone in this regard; regions of Southwest Florida are also focused on fostering an economic environment that is free from the dangers of flooding and understanding how vital reliable infrastructure is to attract and retain businesses and the customer base to support them.

Attendees also spent time discussing concerns over the lack of businesses filling out the state’s disaster assessment survey, which helps to decide how much funding for recovery and relief will be designated to a region. As of Nov. 7, of the 26,000 registered businesses in Sarasota County, only 304, just over 1%, have completed the state’s damage assessment survey.

The City of North Port Economic Development Division has made a hard push to local businesses to complete the state’s damage assessment survey with direct calls, emails, social media, and direct mail efforts. Regional workshop attendees have been making similar pushes to their businesses, and the effort will continue.

This workshop was the first in a series this Federal Economic Recovery Support Function (ERSF) Team will be hosting in regions around Florida that suffered extensive damages from Ian.

As our region’s focus shifts toward plans for long-term economic recovery and resiliency projects, this workshop served as a productive conversation to let major concerns be known, listen to the resources and opportunities available, and foster vital connections that will determine how North Port and our regional partners may continue to grow, thrive, and create new jobs for Floridians following the destruction of Hurricane Ian.