Babcock Ranch is bucking regional demographic trends with a booming, multi-generational population of year-round residents. The rapid pace of residential construction and home sales to working-age professionals often prompts questions about where all of these people are going to work. With dozens of resident business owners and home-based workers who came together to kick off a new Business Retention, Expansion and Engagement initiative in early November, that answer is increasingly clear.
“Like every other place in America, small business owners and entrepreneurs are the most prolific job creators,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners and founder of Babcock Ranch. “Jobs are critical to achieving our vision of making Babcock Ranch a model for smart, sustainable growth. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement over large employers considering facilities here, we want to make sure we’re meeting the needs of our small business community as Babcock Ranch continues to grow.”
BIZ@Babcock Ranch is focused on creating community and fostering collaboration among business owners and the growing population of professionals who work from home, an employment category that has exploded since the start of the pandemic. Future gatherings will alternate between educational programs focused on the needs of small businesses and brainstorming sessions to engage remote workers in envisioning the future of their new hometown.
“Our focus on sustainability, combined with an innovation mindset, creates a living laboratory environment for piloting exciting new technologies, and we have 6 million square feet of commercial entitlements for businesses to take root and grow,” said Tom Hoban, president and CIO of Kitson & Partners. “We are excited about economic development projects that are already in the pipeline but as we look ahead, instead of pursuing what we think people want, it is important to engage with the businesses that are already here and learn what they want and need to succeed.”
BIZ@Babcock Ranch is designed to serve as an umbrella organization to connect existing, resident-initiated business affinity groups, tenants of the collaborative workspace at The Hatchery and the new businesses opening up at Crescent B Commons with resources within Southwest Florida’s broader economic development community.
“All the things that make Babcock Ranch a great place to live also make it a great place to do business,” said Lucienne Pears, vice president of Economic and Business Development for Babcock Ranch. “Residents have come together on their own to incubate what is already a vibrant business community and we are excited to be part of that, and to help them connect with resources within Southwest Florida’s broader economic development community.”
In addition to the monthly programs, Pears and her team will be working to quantify the extent of home-based economic activity at Babcock Ranch. Demographic information gathered via homebuyer surveys hint at a vibrant buzz of productivity, with 18% of residents reporting that they work full time from home with another 3% working from home part-time.
“More than 90% of all businesses in the United States are small businesses, and small businesses account for 80% of job creation — often without much support or recognition of the role they play,” Pears said. “The BIZ@Babcock Ranch program is our effort to foster the growth and success of the small businesses who are incubating a robust, diverse and sustainable economy.”