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North Port wants to lure more retail, dining

Escape 2 Nail Spa in North PortNORTH PORT - Having affordable homes and creating new jobs may not benefit a city if residents spend their money elsewhere.

City leaders say North Port needs to create more shopping, dining and entertainment areas, and they have made that one of the main goals of an updated Economic Development Strategic Plan for 2013-2018.

"Your residents can have a nice house and a nice job, but the dollars will still go outside the city if we can't fulfill those needs," said Allan Lane, the city's economic development manager.

The plan, which includes five goals, 20 objectives and 56 strategies, was adopted by city commissioners this week in a 4-1 vote. The plan was crafted by consultants from the Florida Institute of Government at the University of South Florida and expands on the city's first strategic plan from 2007.

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Photo by Dan Wagner for Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Monthly Series Aims to Help North Port Small Businesses

SeePort Optometry is the type of small business that the city of North Port hoped to nurture when it adopted its first Economic Development Strategic Plan in 2007.

As part of the plan, the city started a Small Business Assistance Program that includes a Lunch & Learn series for business owners who want to expand their companies.

Lunch & Learn was beneficial to Dr. Jesse Hicks and his wife, Annie Jo, when they started SeePort Optometry, 4381 Aidan Lane. Now the business is thriving as it approaches its three-year anniversary in November, Annie Jo Hicks said.

"I learned a lot of good information and met a lot of people, and in this town, it's all about networking," she said. "It's a good program and they do a good job with it. They bring people together."

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