Like many strong organizations, the City of Boca Raton regularly reviews and sets long-term goals as part of a strategic planning process. Last month, the City held its 2022 planning sessions where the Mayor and City Council, senior management, department heads, and the public all weighed in on key goal areas. One common theme that resonated was ensuring that we capture the unprecedented economic opportunities facing our city. The City Council set as one of its high priority goals of establishing Boca Raton as the best place to do business. Let’s dive into more of what that means.
First, we residents already know that Boca Raton has an unparalleled quality of life. We have the finest public safety professionals and safe neighborhoods, with crime rates continuing to drop, even as other cities see increases in crime. We have strong partnerships with our community institutions, such as our school district, as we near completion of a brand new Blue Lake Elementary School, which will open on August 10th. We have lush and abundant green space, with 47 parks, with the new Wildflower Park due to open in the fall to increase our total, along with pristine beaches. We invest in infrastructure, with hundreds of millions in ongoing infrastructure improvements, all without a tax increase. And speaking of taxes, we have one of the lowest tax rates of any full-service city in South Florida, which helps maintain our property values. Indeed, Boca Raton has the highest property valuation of any city in Palm Beach County, and the tax base grew by an impressive 13 percent this year.
Adding to all these wonderful attributes is the business presence of a much larger city. In business, we punch above our weight class, as Boca Raton is more to more than half of the corporate headquarters in all of Palm Beach County. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen even more corporations decide to make Boca Raton their home, and professionals from all levels and in varied industries choosing to work here, especially with telecommuting increasing. The flight from high taxes, high rents, and crowded cities has created an inflection point where companies are flocking to South Florida. Boca Raton is getting our share, and the coming Brightline high-speed rail station continues to be seen as a game changer for our city and ability to attract businesses.
Even with all of these strengths, we will not rest on our laurels. We realize that the landscape in South Florida is more competitive, with many companies looking for the first ticket out of their failing cities. That is why we are setting the ambitious goal to ensure that Boca Raton becomes renowned as the best place to do business. Here are some of the initiatives that underlie this lofty goal:
- We will improve the perception of doing business in Boca Raton. We’ve already completed 14 substantial streamlining efforts to our complex land development code, and were one of the first cities to implement electronic permitting and plan review. This has substantially lowered time for permits, but we will continue to work to improve our reality. That will help improve the perception. In addition, we are adding concierge-style services for larger investments in our city.
- We will ensure predictability in our process and timelines. When key moments arise, like the opportunities for the new public school and Brightline, it took hustle to work with stakeholders, overcome challenges, and complete complex plans on tight timelines. I’ve been fortunate to work with my colleagues on these successes, which were unprecedented a few years ago. We want to bring that certainty to attract the new set of great companies or to provide opportunities for investment in community facilities, including some of the proposals for culture and recreation coming from non-profit entities.
- We will address the infrastructure needs of businesses. We already have the municipal infrastructure to more than support our city, and we are working at partnerships to grow the talent baseand build on the burgeoning high-tech ecosystem in Boca Raton. We have launched an Innovation Office, partnered with businesses incubators and accelerators, and debuted the Endeavor Lab project to provide training, mentorship, and connectivity to local start-ups.
- We will fill any gaps in our quality of life and build on our existing strengths. This will require a thorough and candid look of why businesses might prefer other places. Are there amenities for offices – like vibrant walkable areas – that site selectors would favor? Can we offer new construction opportunities for contemporary Class A offices and does our zoning code need to be reviewed for what it will take for the next generation of companies and professionals?
As you can imagine, we will not complete all of these initiatives in the coming year, but we plan to make substantial headway as part of a multi-year effort. The next few years, as we approach our centennial in 2025, can lead the way to a new century for Boca Raton and success that will continue to make Boca Raton the best place to live, work, learn, and play.
We are fortunate that with our safe and successful city, our priorities are all focused on positives and enhancements. Issues like failing infrastructure and dying industry that some cities face are fortunately not issues in Boca Raton, because of the type of long-term planning at our core mission. We can feel grateful to live in an outstanding community with nearly 2,000 City employees serving with excellence. I’m running in the upcoming March 2023 mayoral election to help see more of these goals to completion, including ensuring a thriving economic base so that my children and all youth in Boca Raton will feel that they have the opportunity to find great careers in our city. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we can do together to reach our goals. Please share your comments, by email at [email protected], and stay connected for more news @ScottSingerUSA on all social media platforms.