Florida's Heartland REDI, Inc. began regional economic development in 1994. The region it supports was struggling with high unemployment and low wages. The lack of connectivity to any urban area and its strong agricultural base made it unattractive to most manufacturers or corporate entities. The lack of population made it unable to compete with urban populations for much needed grants.
The regional organization created inter-local agreements to push for legislation that recognized its unique environment. The partnership created opportunities to assist in the development of a regional mall in Highlands County.
The organization received a large grant for a survey of the regions business stock; targeting their products, employee wages and skills, and future growth potential. The regional organization created grants to the local economic development organizations to assist with marketing, employee training, memberships to professional organizations, and website development. This information was distributed to the workforce boards and community colleges to assist in job training opportunities.
The organization participates in Enterprise Florida marketing opportunities along with Team Florida consultant trips. The consultant trips create a database of consultants that assist companies in relocation and expansion. The regional representative meets with the consultants to develop relationships that provide site recognition for the region.
After the Hurricane season of 2004 and 2005, FHREDI worked to retain businesses in the region by a partnership with Florida's Governor's Office of Tourism Trade and Economic Development. The organization provided the structure for the business community by partnering with the bankers in each county and the state to provide no interest loans of up to $25,000 to the businesses to get them back up and running within 72 hours of their loan application. This banking process prevented over 350 businesses and 1000 employees from losing time from their businesses or jobs or losing their businesses and jobs. Creating stability at a very unstable time.
The collection rate on these loans by the FHREDI organization is over 90% and the highest of any other organization that participated. Because these were personal loans and no collateral was involved it attest to the will of these businesses to survive.
FHREDI also provides the Economic Development support to the counties on projects they are working on both with the prospective company and the state.FHREDI continues to provide training to the businesses in the region to assist them in understanding the special opportunities they have for expansion and employee development.