2 min read December 2021 — “We are in the process of a building boom,” City Manager Norton Bonaparte of the city of Sanford told Invest:. He shared in detail how the city assisted businesses throughout the pandemic, the infrastructural needs of the city, and the challenges and opportunities that are raised as people relocate to Sanford.
What successful strategies were implemented by the City of Sanford during the pandemic?
How the business community was impacted by the pandemic is important to discuss. Fortunately, I was able to declare a state of local emergency, which gave me the ability to waive certain restrictions. When restaurants were allowed to re-open for take-out, there were sign ordinances in place that did not allow restaurants to post signage outside of the vicinity of their businesses. I was able to waive that ordinance, allowing restaurants that were not located on the city’s main road to place signs in the areas that they reopened. I also waived the restrictions regarding outside seating, allowing restaurants to place tables on the sidewalk, which expanded their customer base with outdoor seating.
We were proactive in finding ways to assist businesses throughout the pandemic. The city of Sanford also provided two grants to help our local businesses, totaling up to $15,000 each. One grant assisted enterprises that weren’t receiving federal money, allowing them to retrofit their businesses and re-open safely for themselves and their customers. The second grant assisted businesses that had to lay off their workers while their doors were closed. That grant allowed them to re-hire their staff.
Fortunately, the city of Sanford has been able to retain its workers throughout the pandemic. We have over 540 employees, a number of vacancies, and are continuously on the lookout to recruit new talent. I believe we’re an attractive employer, so we haven’t experienced difficulties in attracting and recruiting people to work for the city. We see that people want to work for the city of Sanford. We had a dedicated workforce during the pandemic and still do. While we had to pivot and change how some aspects of our operations were structured, since the onset of the pandemic to today, we have a workforce who understand their roles and are dedicated to the work.
What infrastructural needs must be addressed in the city of Sanford?
Our Building Department is working on various construction projects. We recently opened a 10-unit housing complex where primarily retail will reside on the first floor, and housing is located on the first, second, third and fourth floors. We also have a new development coming in that will be a boutique hotel, as well as 32 townhomes. We have a public-private partnership where we’re developing 252 apartments along with retail and restaurants on five acres of property that we own. Our challenge lies in the fact that this new development will overtake 500 parking spaces, so once construction begins, we will lose those parking spaces. We’re seeing a lot of growth in the city. The airport completed a $55 million expansion and over 1,200 new homes that have been built near the airport. We also completed the final phase of the RiverWalk project along Lake Monroe, costing $23 million. The RiverWalk promotes accessibility to the trail along the road and adds another dimension to life in Central Florida that is unlike other cities.
What opportunities and challenges present themselves as people relocate to Sanford?
Sanford is positioned as an excellent place for relocation. People are relocating because, due to the pandemic, they don’t need to be in an office to work. We’re a community that has affordable housing along with a better living environment in comparison to the cities people are moving from. Sanford is more affordable than Orlando and although all of Central Florida has an issue with workforce housing, we are seeing more homes being built in our area.
We also have a variety of companies that stand out in Sanford. In the medical industry, we have a company that provides supplies to those who are undergoing cancer treatment. We have new industries entering our market frequently, so we have a good balance within the city that employers and potential talent are able to choose from. In relocating to Sanford, we are close to 1-4 and are towards the end of section 417. We also have the Orlando Sanford International Airport along with railway service. We have access to various modes of transportation that are beneficial to incoming residents and businesses.
What are your priorities and outlook for the city in the near future?
My outlook is excellent for the city. The pandemic has allowed people to rethink various items and how to adjust to the changes that were brought on by the pandemic. The city of Sanford will continue its smart growth. Since we’re centrally located in Florida and many people are relocating to the area, we want to continue providing the quality of life that people are looking for.
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