Hundreds turned out Tuesday night to learn why the city of Cape Coral's future looks so bright for the first time in years at the first ever Catch the Vision.
The event kicked off with a vendor trade show, where attendees had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with about 30 local businesses. Free and discount coupons were handed out to the public, as well as goodie bags. People could also register for drawings and win prizes that night.
One vendor on hand was Nick Libretto, owner of ABC Pest Control. Libretto explained that his company has been serving the Cape for 33 years and now covers Lee and Charlotte counties.
"We want the community to be involved with us, and we want to be involved with the community," he said. "We thought this was a great idea to get involved in the community."
The aim of the event was to highlight the upturn in local development and business since the housing bubble burst several years ago, followed by the downturn in America's economy.
"We had to downsize when it first hit," Libretto said.
"The down drop was really hard, really fast," he added.
But, ABC Pest Control has seen an up-tick in business over the past couple of months. Libretto said they have seen an increase in new customers and they are currently hiring technicians.
"We see the growth coming back," he said.
Following the trade show, a lineup of presenters talked about what is going on and what is expected to go on in the Cape down the road, including in the residential and commercial real estate markets, with residential development and the city's plan for economic development.
Dana Burnett, director of the city's Economic Development Office, informed the audience about the recently announced billboard campaign and outlined job creation, fostering new investments in industries right for the city and maintaining current businesses as the goal.
He mentioned the Pine Island Road widening project and future commercial space.
"It's going to create a lot of opportunities," Burnett said.
He also touched on the Veterans Investment Zone, which will consist of the new Veterans Affairs Clinic, Army Reserve Center, Patriot Plaza and Diplomat Commerce Park, as well as the Concourse at Cape Coral or Academic Village. The city expects development in both areas.
"One stop," he said of the Academic Village. "You can go shopping, go out to dinner.
For the South Cape, the city hopes to see more mixed use and walkable areas.
Burnett added that to raise awareness of Cape Coral on a national level, a five-minute-long televised piece is being created with a well-known voice-over that will broadcast nationwide.
Event attendees were also treated to some number crunching.
Bobby Mahan, owner and broker for Century 21, reported that from October 2011 to last month, residential home listing prices have risen approximately 14 percent. Over the course of the last year, the listing prices for condominiums in the Cape have risen about 23 percent.
Short sales have decreased, while the city's inventory of homes and condos has shrunk.
Cape resident Tracey Brooks, who moved to the city seven years ago, attended Tuesday with her young daughter. She was excited to hear about the recent increase in new construction.
"I'm glad to see that houses are on the rise," she said.
New development was also a plus in her book.
"More jobs, we need more jobs in Cape Coral," Brooks said.
However, she had hoped to hear that higher end retailers were interested in the city.
"Just better quality stores," Brooks said, adding that it would keep shoppers in the Cape.
Tickets to the event cost $5 per person, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit the Cape Coral Caring Center. People were also asked to bring a canned food item for the center.
Raso Realty's Gloria Tate, one of the organizers, called the event a success.
"I think everybody felt optimistic," she said, adding that the statistics reported, for example, allowed homeowners to feel more secure. "They realize they made a strong investment."
The information provided showed that the Cape's future will get brighter.
"We're all moving forward in a slow, but steady pattern," Tate said.
She estimated that 375 to 400 tickets were sold. Organizers plan to host the event again next year, with "twice as many projects to talk about." The vendors all want to participate again.
Catch the Vision was held at Cape Coral First Baptist Church, at 4117 Coronado Parkway.