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  • 15 Jan 2021 9:20 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As part of my professional responsibilities, I attended the July 9, 2019 Sarasota County Commission Meeting and listened with great interest as the Board discussed and offered guidance for Economic Development in Sarasota County.

    This discussion is obviously of great interest to the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX) and the Commercial Contracting Industry and should be of great interest to the entire community as we seek to reduce the threshold of ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) households from 23% to as close to zero as possible.  Even more startling is that 37% of households are below the ALICE threshold and 9% are below the poverty level.  Additionally, 47% of Sarasota County school children are on free or reduced lunch. We should strive to bring these numbers down as close to zero as possible and we obviously have work to do!

    Economic Development needs to be a team sport with the entire community behind it and supporting it.  It not only grows the tax base of the county so we all benefit, but provides opportunities that families need and deserve.  Not to mention keeping good paying jobs in the commercial construction industry busy and thriving.

    The discussion was lively and clearly had the good of all residents and the community at the heart.  This one is TV well worth watching and I encourage you to do so.  It is available at scgov.net.

    This should be a call for “all hands on deck” to decide on and develop a plan that is specific to the unique assets and needs of Sarasota and its citizens.  We have an incredible group of business professionals in the region that are ready to come together to make this change along with the team at the EDC that can lead this charge!

    Additionally, there is discussion in the community about coming together and forming a partnership of all interested and affected groups in the community to provide input into the future of economic development in the County.  This is a model that has been successfully utilized in other communities and could provide some valuable visioning for the future of Sarasota County. We should all get behind this concept.

    Many of us who have been here for a significant amount of time lived through the “great recession” a few years back.  Those of us in the construction industry remember well the devastating effect it had on families and businesses.  The numbers mentioned above illustrate that there is still need in the community to grow and diversify the local economy for good times and tough times.  There were many valuable lessons that came from that awful recession and these discussions show that we listened, we learned and we are ready to continue to take action to be better, stronger and more diverse than before.

    At GCBX we welcome these discussions and support strong economic growth not just for our industry but for a strong and prosperous community.


  • 04 Jan 2021 10:18 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As we embark on 2021, we still have a long way to go for the health of our country’s citizens and the economy. We are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel with the rollout of new vaccines and only hope that this will help us conquer the pandemic that has paralyzed the world.

    It will then be time to rebuild from the damage that was caused to individuals, families and businesses. At GCBX (Gulf Coast Builders Exchange) we represent the commercial contracting industry. While our members support many organizations and charities, GCBX supports them. So, while we know many people have suffered through this pandemic and we all need to do our part, our focus at GCBX is to support businesses that employ thousands in the community and support the local economy.

    To do the heavy lifting necessary to rebuild the local economy, we need government officials and bureaucracies to support and partner with businesses on the policies necessary to assist with the recovery of the local economy.

    We have seen local governments mobilize like never before in assisting citizens and businesses with grants and loans during the crisis, but the rebuilding stage hasn’t even begun and by all assessments it may take many years for the recovery.

    We have seen encouraging signs that local government and the business community are working together such as the extension of the temporary reduction of certain building permit fees. Each of the commercial construction projects affected by this policy employ potentially hundreds of individuals during construction phase and then long into the future once the structure/building is completed and the business is opened. Additionally, the business will pay taxes which ultimately benefit the entire community.

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    We need local governments and the community to focus on an economic development strategy that gives our area a competitive advantage for high-wage, high-skill jobs. We need to develop a plan we can all agree on and ultimately support. Our community has many assets that make it a desirable place to live and work, but we can’t depend on that to lure businesses to the area. We must work together to be competitive and provide the opportunities these jobs offer to the citizens of our region. These efforts will benefit the entire community for the long term.

    We need stability and leadership in local government. The city of Sarasota has taken a brilliant and decisive step in that direction by naming Marlon Brown interim city manager and Pat Robinson interim deputy city manager after City Manager Tom Barwin announced his retirement. Both of these individuals know the community well and have proven their leadership. We look forward to the positive impact they will have on the City of Sarasota. We only hope that the City of North Port will show the same type of leadership as it goes through the process of finding a new city manager.

    We are grateful that Manatee County has hit the pause button on discussing the potential termination of the county administrator. The discussions to terminate Cheri Coryea’s contract didn’t provide the stability necessary during these uncertain times. We look forward to her leadership and the leadership of the Manatee County Commission to guide the community over the course of the rebuilding process.

    First and foremost, we need to take care of the health of our community. This crisis isn’t over and we have to accept that, but we need to plan to rebuild and strengthen our community, businesses and families once the pandemic is behind us. Make no mistake, a healthy economy requires a healthy community, so please take all necessary measures to protect your health and the health of those around you.

    We hope the end of this crisis is within our grasp, but then we need to be prepared to rebuild and recover from the damage created and yes, while we are all in this together, it will take all of us to recover.


  • 10 Nov 2020 9:22 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I learned long ago that what happens nationally is far beyond my ability to influence much less control. Perhaps that’s a good thing! Yet, on a local level, our voice is able to be heard and we can make a difference.

    Fortunately, we all made a difference when we elected Ron Tuner as Sarasota Supervisor of Elections and Mike Bennett as Manatee Supervisor of Elections. Our local election process was accessible, ran smoothly and by all accounts went off without a hitch even during the challenges of a pandemic. Voting is a sacred right in our country and both Supervisors, their staff and volunteers handled the process with the utmost professionalism and integrity. We are fortunate and our democracy depends on the work of these offices, so we owe them our appreciation for a job well done.

    Additionally, in our local area, Counties have been navigating unchartered waters in dealing with a pandemic and implementing policies to help those hardest hit. In April, the Sarasota County Commission authorized the Small Business Resiliency Loan Program and the use of $4.3M of economic incentive funding to assist the hardest hit businesses in the beginning of this crisis. The Sarasota EDC, with interim CEO Dave Bullock at the helm moved with lightning speed to bring all the necessary components of the program to the Commission for final approval. Even dealing with government bureaucracy this got off the ground within a month. The EDC reached out to community members with expertise that could assist with reviewing the loans and moving them through the process as expediently as possible. Helping local small businesses was the primary focus of the County Commission, County Staff and the Board and Staff of the EDC. They made a big impact at a time when Florida was under a stay at home order and small businesses were hardest hit. They too deserve our gratitude for a job well done.

    Both Manatee and Sarasota Counties have worked locally to waive, change or expedite regulations to assist businesses during this time. These county governments have had to deal with many of the same issues that those of us in the business community have faced with employees exposed to the virus and/or coming down ill with the virus. Yet, they have been working non-stop, many of them in the Emergency Operations Center to deal with challenges they were never trained for and certainly couldn’t predict, but these public servants have done there jobs with honor and integrity and a true focus on working to do what was best for the communities they serve. Again, we owe them a debt of gratitude.

    Most recently, both counties have been tasked to distribute much needed relief through funding from the CARES Act. While this is federal funding, just dealing with the U.S. Treasury Department eligibility guidelines (so the Counties aren’t on the hook for the money at the end) is a monumental task in and of itself! Yet, both counties have developed programs, developed an application process a review process and payment process that is in the process of distributing approximately $70M in CARES Act funding in each county, much of it going to individuals and businesses in need of assistance. While I can’t say that it has gone off without a hitch or two, I can say that when those hitches came up staff was quick to respond and made the necessary changes to ensure the smoothest possible process. Again, there was no playbook for any of this, just a commitment to serve the community and a focus on getting the job done to the best of their ability and with an emphasis on expediency to make a real difference in the lives of individuals and businesses.

    Our local elected officials and staffs are often easy targets for our frustrations, but it is times like these when I think we should step back and show our appreciation for these local public officials and their staff members and thank them for the behind the scenes work they do that make a real difference in making the community better, especially during these tough times.


  • 01 Oct 2020 9:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    2020 has certainly been a tragic year, a tragic year for the economy and a tragic year for the many families impacted by illness and job loss. I’ve had people say to me, please stop saying we are “all in this together”, but we are all in this together. The pain of families who experience illness and loss from the virus is felt by all of us, by now I suspect we all know someone personally. We all play a part in getting through this, getting past this and getting to the point where we remember with sadness the year that was 2020.

    Yet, through it all, fortunately, the local contracting industry has continued working and kept the local economy strong and kept employees working. Those workers in turn purchased take out dinners for their families, bought lunch during the work day, purchased clothing for their children to return to school. So, to get to the point I’m making, these workers kept the engine of the local economy running.

    According to a recent article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune, construction of multifamily homes hit an all time high in 2018 and then dipped in 2019, but has since rebounded with 612 permits as of June of this year.

    The article further went on to state, “Sarasota County also experienced an 80.7% increase in the number of new commercial permits in fiscal year 2020 compared to the previous year. The estimated construction value of fiscal year 2020’s permits also increased by 54% with a total value of $100 million”. That is $100 million invested in the local community. That investment means real jobs for real people both during construction and long term in those commercial properties. Those jobs keep our community strong during difficult times and sustainable long into the future. In order for a community to thrive, it must grow. This commercial growth will help our community weather future downturns, but in the meantime the construction industry has helped keep countless number of businesses, municipal government employees and countless ancillary businesses afloat during the current crisis.

    So, yes we are all in this together and as an industry we have focused on keeping employees working and supporting local businesses whenever and however possible. At GCBX we have encouraged our members to shop at local establishments, get take out or safely dine at local restaurants and buy materials as much as possible from local businesses. We are a local trade association, so our mantra of “Members Doing Business with Members” means investment in the local economy that helps all of us.

    We look forward to the day that our community is completely and safely “open for business” once again. That everyone who has lost a job is gainfully employed again and anyone looking for work can find it. Too many families have been devastated financially. Which brings me to my second point in this article, which is Amendment 2, the ballot initiative on the November ballot that seeks to increase the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour. Now, I must say that initially I personally didn’t think this was an issue for the Commercial Contracting Industry to weigh in on since average wages in the industry are over $15.00/hour. I just don’t think as an industry we have to swing at every pitch, but I have to say I have changed my mind over the past few months. My mother taught me that timing is important in life and I have come to realize the time for this amendment just isn’t right. Local restaurants have been some of the hardest hit businesses and now hitting them with this type of wage increase will be the final nail in the coffin for many and many more jobs will be lost. Additionally, according to those in the restaurant and lodging industry, servers wages with tips already exceeds $15.00 per hour. The economy and families will take a long time to recover from the pandemic and the resulting price increases from this initiative will only exacerbate the situation. So, frankly for so many reasons the timing of this Amendment just isn’t right. Lets get people back to work. Let businesses get back on their feet. Lets work together to recover and rebuild. At GCBX we have decided to Vote No on Amendment 2 and we encourage you to also Vote No.


  • 28 Jul 2020 12:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Mike Bennett

    As Manatee’s Supervisor of Elections, and as a former state of Florida Senator, I sincerely hope you exercise your patriotic duty and vote in the August primary and November general elections. As important as the upcoming elections are, I am writing today regarding another very important and patriotic duty. I need you to participate in our national census. A very simple but extremely important request of you and all Floridians: Fill out and return today the census form you should have all received.

    Why should you, you may ask? Because it is critically important to our local community that all of us do so in order to provide accurate data, which will affect local, state and national programs and funding for the next 10 years. Many people may not be aware of the extensive list of things impacted by census data. A U.S. Census Bureau report lists over 130 programs that receive funds based on the census data. These range from school lunches to highway planning and construction, disaster recovery to senior services, veterans’ services to small business development, beach renourishment and beyond.

    Click here to read more stories about the 2020 census.

    In addition to providing a basis for allocation of funding, the census data is also extremely important for county government; emergency management operations; hospitals, fire and police departments; and both large and small businesses. The data allows those entities to project and plan to meet the needs of their constituencies and customers.

    As if these were not reasons enough, the results of this once-a-decade count determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives. The data is also used to draw congressional and state legislative districts. Manatee County currently has a 56% response rate for the census. That is a bit below the rate of 62% for the U.S. We need to be more like Balltown, Iowa or North River, North Dakota, who both have 100% compliance. Granted, those communities have a smaller population than we do, but if they can do it, so can we!

    Normally, representatives from the census would be knocking on your door by now, but the pandemic continues to interfere with those plans. The census form is very simple and should take no more than a few minutes to complete. Please do your patriotic duty and complete and return your census form today.

    If you have lost the form that was mailed to your house, then please either call the hotline at 844-330-2020 or go online to my2020census.gov and follow the very simple instructions that are available in over 50 different languages.

    If you care about our country and our state, please do this for for me, for you, for your family and for Florida.

    Click here for article

  • 27 Jul 2020 12:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Mary Dougherty

    It’s hard to believe we are half way through 2020 and the pandemic and the uncertainty created by it are still looming large in our collective psyche. I saw a cartoon on Facebook that said “I need my thundershirt” to watch the news and it was a sentiment I certainly understood.

    So, what can we do? On a national level, I’m not really sure. On a local level, perhaps a lot. I don’t believe we need our elected leaders to tell us what to do to protect one another, be respectful of one another and exhibit common sense. Let’s be clear: I’m not a medical professional, my first major in college was bio-chemistry (back in the day), so that truly only qualifies me to have my informed personal opinion and nothing else.

    What can we do on a local level, we can exhibit common sense. Stay a polite physical distance from one another, wash your hands like never before and yes, wear a mask (at GCBX we have been giving out masks and hand sanitizer free to our members since March). We should we do this because we can have an impact on our local area. We may not be able to affect what’s happening in Texas, Arizona or Brazil for that matter, but we can protect the area we call home. Providers in families need to work and we must all do our part to keep the economy open while not just flattening the curve but crushing the curve. A healthy community is good for business.

    I for one can’t wait until the day when we say “remember the pandemic,” but it’s going to take all of us. People without jobs and without the prospect of a job due to this uncertainty are being disproportionally hit by this pandemic. Once we work together to get past this there are excellent careers in the construction industry and numerous opportunities to take a step toward that career. In partnership with CareerEdge there are programs, apprenticeships and internships that can jumpstart those opportunities.

    At GCBX (Gulf Coast Builders Exchange), many of our members have been deemed essential businesses. We are grateful. We, along with other business groups, such as Visit Sarasota, are focusing on efforts to support the local hospitality and tourism industry that have been hit so hard. We are encouraging our members to pick up those take out meals, dine at a local restaurant (following all safety protocols), visit local attractions, and consider a “staycation” for a change of scenery.

    We may not be able to affect things on a global or national level, but we can do our part to support our local economy, and those fortunate enough to continue to work should consider it our civic duty. Food pantries are overwhelmed, so please donate. If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, please consider donating convalescent plasma.

    Yes, there’s an election coming up in the midst of all this. Our Supervisors of Elections are having difficulty finding poll workers through this pandemic, so if you don’t believe in vote by mail, volunteer to be a poll worker. If you’re okay with vote-by-mail, go to the Supervisor of Election website (Manatee – www.votemanatee.com, Sarasota – www.sarasotavotes.com, Charlotte – www.charlottevotes.com) and request a vote-by-mail ballot.

    Let’s all do our part to get to the stage where we say “remember the pandemic.” When compared to what the Greatest Generation was asked to do to support the war effort in WWII, it really isn’t much. We may not affect areas outside our region, but we can show Manatee/Sarasota/Charlotte Strong!

    Let’s do this for everyone’s good. For the good of working families, for the good of local businesses and yes, for the good of the construction industry. It all goes together.

    Click here for article.

  • 01 Jun 2020 10:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I hope this column finds everyone doing well, social distancing and following all precautions to stay healthy. I can’t wait for the day when we say “remember the pandemic.”

    At the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange (GCBX), we are grateful that construction was deemed an essential business. We are grateful that this segment of the economy was able to continue to keep people working and families supported during these difficult times.

    As an association, GCBX provided free hand sanitizers to its members, is distributing free masks to GCBX members, provided our employees with the necessary tools to telecommute, ceased all “in person” networking events, held virtual events with proceeds going to provide meals to first responders, and worked tirelessly to keep GCBX members informed during this pandemic so they could focus on their businesses, their employees and their families.

    Since 1952, GCBX has represented the local commercial contracting industry. We have always realized the importance of supporting the local economy by working with local businesses, the ones who raise their families here, are invested in the community and support the local area.

    GCBX illustrated the importance of the local construction industry on the local economy in 1973 when it conducted what it called a “Silver Dollar Campaign.” GCBX Members paid their employees in silver dollars to illustrate how those dollars permeated the local economy. So many silver dollars went out into the community that legend has it that stores had signs in their windows that said “No More Silver Dollars”.

    That was then and this is now. GCBX wants to show its support for the local economy with a new “Work Local, Eat Local” campaign. We are working with Visit Sarasota to support “Savor Sarasota” and the Venice Chamber to support their “Shop Local – Win Local” campaigns.

    We are encouraging GCBX members to get out (responsibly – while following all the rules) and go out to dinner or pick up takeout from a local restaurant as often as possible. Plan a “staycation” at a local hotel. If your plans take you out of town, fly out of SRQ — our local airport is an important component of our local economy. When is the last time you visited Selby Gardens? Visit local attractions!

    Remember, we live in paradise, so live the dream and reacquaint yourself and your family with why this is such a special place and why so many people want to visit where we are lucky enough to live.

    We have all had and continue to have different experiences during this pandemic. We mourn those who were lost, we feel for those who have had to endure this illness and we worry about the workers and businesses that have been hit hardest. We are grateful to those who continued to make sure there was food on grocery store shelves, health care workers, first responders, postal workers and — particularly for GCBX members — those in county government who work in the building department. We have a different perspective and different priorities.

    I hope we all make supporting our local economy and local community a priority. I know at GCBX this has always been important to the organization and its membership and now more than ever we are planning to give back.

  • 06 Apr 2020 10:57 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As I sit here today, telecommuting from my home to help flatten the coronavirus curve, the whole situation is still surreal. My heart goes out to those directly impacted by the virus and their families. My heart is heavy for those businesses forced to close and employees whose livelihoods have been adversely impacted by the effects of the coronavirus on our community, country and the world. Yet, my heart is full of gratitude for the first responders and medical staff who put their wellbeing on the line to keep us all safe and healthy. They are America at its best.

    The Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is a local Trade Association representing Manatee, Sarasota and Charlotte counties. Our priority has always been and always will be the local economy. Once we are past this crisis (AND WE WILL GET PAST THIS!), supporting local businesses and the local economy will be more important than ever! In the meantime, we need to keep open and functioning whatever segments of the economy that can be kept open safely, with workers’ health being the first and foremost consideration.

    That is why we have spoken to County Commissioners and written to Governor DeSantis, Congressman Buchanan and Congressman Steube to help stabilize the construction industry in the near term, by asking them to designate commercial construction as an “essential infrastructure business” in Florida.

    When making this request, we encouraged them to consider four main factors:

    • Recognize that construction is essential and should be allowed to continue under any potential remain-in-place order;

    • Government functions related to the building and development process, such as inspections, permitting and plan review services can be modified to protect the public health, but fundamentally should continue and serve the construction industry (For example, allow qualified private third-party inspections in case of government shutdown.);

    • Suppliers necessary to serve the construction, repair and maintenance should be allowed to operate;

    • Those working in building trades must be allowed to continue operating businesses.

    The construction industry continues to adhere to public health guidelines set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

    According to OSHA, “Lower exposure risk (caution) jobs are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being, infected with SARS-CoV-2 nor frequent close contact with (i.e., within 6 feet of) the general public. Workers in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other coworkers.”

    A large majority of, if not all, land development and commercial construction job tasks fall within OSHA’s Lower Exposure Risk jobs. Obviously, working on new commercial construction sites occurs primarily outdoors and does not involve going onto a location occupied by residents or a public location, and there is minimal (if any) physical or transactional contact with customers compared to other customer/client relationships. We understand any construction projects at nursing homes are not low risk and have already ceased.

    Commercial contracting is highly regulated and therefore cannot occur without support from the locality where it occurs. Builders require governmental approvals and permits to begin a project and they are needed through project completion. Therefore, governmental inspections occur along the entire process, from land development to final certificate of occupancy.

    As part of the essential infrastructure, commercial construction requires that government building and zoning departments continue to operate, and they have been. The government employees in these positions have been going above and beyond in their roles and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

    The inspection process has benefited from modifications. For example, when possible, inspectors are working “off hours” to minimize any contact with the construction team. They are making other arrangements with the owner or general contractor to safeguard their health by ensuring nobody will be on site during an inspection. Furthermore, certain localities use third-party engineers to sign off on inspections. These innovations may be one of the silver linings to come out of this crisis.

    Construction is currently one of Florida’s major economic staples. Keeping the men and women of the industry building must be a priority. If construction is disrupted, it creates a domino effect leading to dire negative economic repercussions for an already-burdened economy. Keeping the construction industry going during this time, keeps people employed and supports families who support local businesses and, in the end, will help our community to bounce back stronger and better than ever.

  • 02 Jan 2020 1:18 PM | Anonymous

    Several members of the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange, a nonprofit trade organization, are providing $25,000 of free in-kind services to help renovate an existing 3,657-square-foot duplex for Prodigal Daughters, a Christ-centered rehabilitation ministry for women suffering from the bondage of addiction, human trafficking, abuse or any other life-controlling issues.

    The Prodigal Daughters Journey Home serves as the nonprofit’s only housing for its 18-month to 24-month residential rehabilitation program. The four-bedroom and two-bathroom duplex consists of a playroom, craft room, living room and dining room. The home’s occupancy can accommodate six people, but the nonprofit is currently working on a change-of-use permit to allow up to 23 people.

    During the two-month renovation, GCBX members and other community partners are rezoning for the property to take in more occupants, providing painting and project management services, replacing rotten wood throughout the building, making cash contributions and installing new sinks, countertops and windows.

    Members who are stepping up to help with the project include Aqua Plumbing & Air, Bright Future Electric, Buffalo Lodging, Colonial Precast Concrete LLC, Current Builders Constructors, Forristall Enterprises, Graber Cabinets, Habitat for Humanity Manatee County, Mullets Aluminum Products Inc., Office of J. Rameau, PGT Innovations, Service Contracting Services, Sharp Properties Inc., Tradesmen International, United States Awning Co. and Woodruff & Sons Inc.

    “I have four daughters, and I believe in what Prodigal Daughters does and what they provide for women is very special,” said Darrell Turner, marketing director of the west coast division for Current Builders Constructors and the GCBX member who led this initiative. “After meeting the staff, I just fell in love with their mission and the organization. Thank you to our GCBX members for lending a helping hand and contributing to our communities.”

    Click here for the article

  • 05 Nov 2019 4:35 PM | Anonymous

    The program model provides job training to local community members who want to learn a trade and earn credentials.

    Marie Selby Botanical Gardens’ 10-year, three-phase master site plan is estimated to support nearly 3,000 jobs, with priority given to businesses that employ City of Sarasota residents. As a further benefit to the community and to ensure that there is a trained job force available for Selby Gardens’ Master Plan project, Selby Gardens and its construction partner, Willis Smith, have announced a collaboration with the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce’s CareerEdge Funders Collaborative and the Gulf Coast Builders Exchange. The program model provides job training to local community members who want to learn a trade and earn credentials, while also seeking to close the gaps in skills in the region by connecting local citizens to training programs in high-demand fields, such as plumbing, electrical, HVAC and machining. 

Gulf Coast Builders Exchange is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization. Copyright © 2017. All Rights Reserved
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