SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — A new campaign driven by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota and "Visit Sarasota County" wants people outside the county to not only consider a range of jobs there but to go ahead and change their zip code.
Sarasota's business leaders hope the "Work Where You Want To Live" initiative will make job seekers curious about living in the area and help grow its workforce.
The EDC primarily lures large businesses and investments to Sarasota while VSC has been mostly focused on tourism. Now with the campaign, both organizations would add the focus of luring people to seek and find jobs and try to turn tourists into permanent residents of the county.
Despite the impact of the pandemic, many businesses in the county have seen an upward progression in sales and business activity, especially with the state's leadership's defiant approach towards masks and mandates. More people have also been vaccinated against COVID-19 and are feeling more confident to go out into public spaces.
"Downtown Sarasota has a lot to offer," Sarasota resident, Nino Wardrip, said. "There are lots of businesses here and nightspots all along Main Street. You've got the water right a block away from us here. Everything you want is right here in Downtown Sarasota."
Wardrip, who is a marketing partner and manager at Clasico Italian Chophouse on Main Street said many businesses like his still have challenges with hiring workers and are in dire need to fill open and new positions as fast as possible.
"Right now it's really hard to get employees that want to come into work," Wardrip said. "I think with the whole [pandemic] that happened and the rise in minimum wage come it is really hard to get quality employees to come in at a fair wage."
That's why, along with encouraging local businesses to adapt to new market forces, business leaders in Sarasota are promoting the "Work Where You Want to Live" campaign to lure new residents to fill up the gap in the workforce.
"Finding talent is a real critical issue," Lisa Krouse, CEO and President of Sarasota Economic Development Corporation, said.
Krouse said partnering with VSC on the campaign was necessary to help local businesses thrive and to help them recruit qualified candidates who are in the market for a new place to call home.
"Who wouldn't want to live in paradise," Krouse questioned. "We know that we have assets and resources that individuals would want to be around, but for us it really is making sure that we are responding to the needs of businesses today."
"Visit Sarasota County" tourism campaigns are utilizing advertising, digital media and data analytics. "Work Where You Want To Live" would provide information about businesses, neighborhoods, shopping and recreation, schools and various resources.
"A good example is our high-rated schools," Erin Duggan with Visit Sarasota County said. "If you've got children and you're moving here to work, you want to know that your children have a great place to go to school. We're also communicating with them the quality of life that's here so that when you're here, not only do you have award-winning beautiful beaches, you've also got arts and culture, fantastic restaurants and great opportunities to connect with nature."
"We are wanting to make sure that we are giving them all the tools and resources that they need as to why Sarasota county is a great place to live and work," Duggan said.
Business owners say such an initiative is valuable and would be very helpful and encouraging. Not just toward business operators, but also job seekers and potential new residents.
"The influx of people moving down to Florida alone has helped with our sales and I think that program will definitely help bring more business and get applicants to the doors," Wardrip said.
The EDC is working with county leaders and real estate developers in the area on a workforce tasked to help provide solutions to affordable housing for workers and lower-income residents.