Volusia Economy on a ‘Promising Path’

Every community wants to build a sustainable economy through new business development and assisting existing businesses. The path to economic development success begins with a vision and plan.

Lou Paris

For Lou Paris, Volusia County’s newly appointed director of economic development, that vision begins with cooperation and coordination between local governments, community organizations and other partners.

“Our overarching goal is to achieve an environment were future generations can thrive, offering them compelling reasons to stay, including access to well-paying jobs and a high quality of life,” he said. “We are on a promising path forward toward economic prosperity, with our region’s economic development organizations working together on projects that will elevate our community’s economic health.”

Paris said to turn that vision into reality requires a strategic approach that includes focusing on key industries such as aerospace, manufacturing and technology.

“We are also identifying local businesses poised for substantial growth and pinpointing their pain points and growth barriers,” he said. “Our approach includes creating solutions that meet their specific challenges and requirements, all aimed at creating a thriving economic landscape for our community.”

Paris said there are differences between attracting new business development and supporting existing ones.

“For existing businesses, a primary obstacle is obtaining sufficient funding,” he said. “Capital is the lifeblood for startups and small companies to innovate and expand. Another critical challenge is cultivating a skilled workforce. When there’s a gap between the skills available in the labor market and those demanded by employers it can impede economic progress.”

For new business development efforts, the challenges include available land for development and competition from other states and regions.

“Attracting businesses involves overcoming hurdles such as ensuring available spaces are ready for use, facing competition from other regions that might offer more incentives and aligning the local workforce with the specific needs of prospective employers,” Paris said.

The role of economic development incentives is often misunderstood by the public and Paris said that can come from a lack of precision in the terminology.

“Let’s replace ‘incentive’ with ‘business support programs,’” he said.” Economic development support programs represent the community’s strategic investment in its future. The fundamental principle underlying these programs is to enhance Volusia County’s competitiveness when companies are evaluating potential locations. If a company is deliberating between two locations and Volusia County can offer a program that expedites its speed to market, it may tip the scales in our favor. Moreover, it signals to the investing company — through the provision of higher-than-average wage jobs, capital investment boosting the tax base, and often, infrastructure enhancements — that we share common goals and are committed to mutual prosperity.”

Paris said it is also important to understand incentive packages are performance-based with strict guidelines for job creation, wage levels and capital assets.

“When effectively implemented, these programs not only foster business growth but also foster a more diverse and sustainable local economy, enriching the overall quality of life,” he said.