Forum to promote opportunities around new VA Clinic this Thursday
The new Veterans Clinic is expected to attract 30,000 Veterans to Cape Coral annually.
Two months after the new Veterans Affairs clinic opened in northeast Cape Coral it’s still difficult to say just how much of an impact it has had on businesses in the city.
“I haven’t heard of anything,” said Mike Quaintance, president of the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce. Gas stations or restaurants in the area might be getting some business, he added.
The nearest retail center in Cape Coral is about two miles west of the clinic, which is at Diplomat Parkway and Corbett Road.
But, city officials hope the clinic will attract developers who want to build closer to the clinic. They’ve scheduled a special presentation to talk about how to make that happen.
A public forum is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 28) to talk about incentives, financing and other aspects of developing in the area around the clinic designated as the Veterans Investment Zone.
The city hopes the forum will help attract a variety of businesses related to medicine, such as medical suppliers and assisted living providers, said city Economic Development Director Dana Brunett. The area could become a medical campus like Health Park, Brunette said. That would become a magnet for clean, higher paying jobs, he said.
But, the city can only do so much.
“We don’t own the land. We’re acting as facilitators,” Brunett said.
With up to 400 employees, the clinic also is expected to become a magnet for housing, a hotel and restaurants. The clinic also is expected to treat 30,000 veterans a year, some of whom will travel with family members and, in some cases, want to spend the night.
The clinic also could increase the demand for existing services, such as public transportation. There are an estimated 202,000 veterans in the region. Many veterans and employees could boost the use local transportation services, but so far they do not appear to be increasing demand for taxi or bus rides.
SWFL Transportation Group sends many taxis to the clinic, but it did that before the clinic moved in December from its previous site in Fort Myers, said operator/dispatcher Jennifer Welling.
“It just kind of reverted from the Winkler clinic. I wouldn’t say it’s increased,” Welling said.
Other cab companies reported no calls for people going to the clinic.
Super Taxi of SWFL Inc. in Cape Coral hasn’t has any requests for rides, said owner Eduardo Rodriguez, but he added he hopes to get some of the business someday.
“We haven’t taken anyone to the one in Cape Coral,” said Dennis Marshall of Pine Island Taxi and Limousine Service.
“I would be happy to do something like that. I don’t know what the reason is. We have people who ask for rides to Cape Coral Hospital,” Marshall said.
LeeTran changed routes to provide service to the clinic, but there’s not enough data yet to analyze usage, according to Joann Haley, marketing director for the bus service.
“For the month of January, it looks like we had an average of one person boarding at that stop and two alighting at that stop on a typical weekday. Our planner cautioned that it’s a very small sample, and we shouldn’t draw conclusions from it,” Haley said in an email response.
To learn more about the commercial opportunities, proposed developments, and upcoming projects, the public is encouraged to attend the “Veterans Investment Zone” forum, Thursday, February 28 from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. The Forum will be held at the Cape Coral Yacht Club Ballroom. Admission is free.
CapeCoral.com publisher Jeff Koehn contributed to this report. Don Ruane has spent over 30 years as a journalist writing on various topics around Southwest Florida. He currently serves as Senior Correspondent for CapeCoral.com and writes a weekly article that publishes every Tuesday. Don can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.