Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Latina hired as economic development director

City hires Belinda Ortiz
By Juliana A. Torres, OSC News Gazette, Nov 25, 2009

Belinda Ortiz – a Buenaventura Lakes resident, former state senate candidate and local business representative – will be Kissimmee’s first economic development director starting Dec. 1, the city announced Friday.

The position, the only personnel increase to this year’s budget that had a net decrease of 17 full time employees, first was introduced in April as a way to promote the city’s development of Vine Street, the airport corridor and its downtown.
Commissioners said that they felt the position could eventually pay for itself with revenue from additional business development.

Since then, the city has been seeking a candidate who had strong relationships within the local business community and could hit the ground running in promoting the city.

“As the city continues to grow, it's imperative we make businesses aware that Kissimmee is an ideal location if they are interested in either starting up or relocating to our area,” City Manager Mark Durbin stated in a press release announcing the decision. “Ms. Ortiz is highly skilled in business development, which will foster the goodwill relations needed to facilitate strong ties within the business community.”

In April, the commission approved hiring the economic development director right away and even approved additional funds be set aside for salary and benefits of the position prior to the new budget period that started in October.

However, delays in the hiring process prevented the new position from being filled until now. The city had hired a director, whose first day was to be in July, but who didn’t end up taking the job, Deputy City Manager Mike Steigerwald said. After considering the other candidates, the city decided to re-advertise for the position in October, starting the process over again, he said.

The 2009 fiscal year budget included $112,000 in salary and benefits for the new economic development director as well as expenses, travel and training for the new operation. Ortiz will make $75,000 a year.

“She has a breadth of experience on a variety of levels,” Steigerwald said. “Really what impressed us about her was that she was out there in the community (and) had lot of contacts in business development. She’s very professional, a very good communicator and very enthusiastic. She’s going to be a good salesperson for the city.”

The city has been represented by the county’s economic development department, contributing about a $50,000 annual fee – waived the last few years in the economic downturn – as well as economic development funds toward the incoming businesses, Steigerwald said.

Ortiz will be tasked with promoting the city’s redevelopment of the downtown, Vine Street and the area around Kissimmee Gateway Airport, areas the county office doesn’t target specifically.

“Our goal with this position was to supplement the services the county economic development department provides,” Steigerwald said.

Commissioner Jerry Gemskie said he pushed for the city to hire an economic development advocate in 2004 and was pleased with the decision to hire Ortiz.

“She presents herself well and she’ll represent the city well,” he said. “We need a people person that can go out and make people feel comfortable. You want someone to bring in some good quality business.”

Ortiz has represented Central Florida Hotel & Lodging Association, one of the region's strongest workforce engines. Before that, she worked for Orange County's Business Development office, assisting small business start-ups, promoting contract opportunities at the county and managing contracts worth more than $65 million. She also has served on a number of boards, including the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund.

Ortiz is nationally certified as a economic development finance professional and has earned a master’s degree in public administration.

Aside from her business experience, Ortiz unsuccessfully ran for state senator against Gary Siplin in 2008.

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