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Highlights of the Economic Backbone of Southwest Florida

Although residents of Southwest Florida enjoy a high quality of life with all the beaches, waterways, parks, golf courses and more, the economic backbone of the region provides an unwavering foundation for commerce.  The roadways, airports and telecommunications platforms all contribute to a sustainable and scalable economic infrastructure. This combination creates a unique environment in which to work and play and is a big reason why companies choose to relocate or expand to Southwest Florida.

Southwest Florida Highways and Secondary Roads

Lee County and Collier County in Southwest Florida serve as a natural intersection for trucking

traffic thanks to Interstate 75, which connects to Tampa and Fort Lauderdale in two hours, and Orlando and Miami in three hours. A parallel thoroughfare easily accessible as a backup thoroughfare is highway 41 also known as Tamiami Trail.

At the approach to Naples at County Road 951 (Exit 101), Interstate 75 curves tightly north resuming its south to north path and motorists have access to a third lane each way as the highway parallels the gulf coast of Florida. At this turn, Alligator Alley ends and I-75 becomes toll free for the rest of its length in Florida. As it continues north, I-75 gives easy exit and on ramp access to destinations such as Bonita Springs, Estero, Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and points north.

The Everglades Radio Network used to be a network of two low-power FM travelers information radio stations serving the Collier County segment of Alligator Alley in the Everglades region and based at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. However the proliferation of Southwest Florida’s cellular tower network has resulted in the discontinuation of the radio network.

Southwest Florida Airports

Another critical piece of the economic backbone of the Southwest Florida region is the aviation facilities. The region has two commercial airports, Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) and Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) and several major general aviation airfields including Page Field, Naples Municipal (NMA) , Immokalee Regional (IMM) , Airglades (2IS), Marco Island Executive (MKY) , and LaBelle (X14).

Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) is an award-winning facility designed with today’s traveler in mind and tomorrow’s opportunities in view. More than 8.8 million passengers passed through RSW gates in 2017 with record breaking counts in the first quarter of 2018.

The entire airport is a designated Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), which provides special customs procedures advantageous to U.S. companies engaged in international trade-related activities. Fort Myers is classified as a foreign trade zone (federal zone number 213) where businesses can leverage importing duty free parts and components as long as they are if they are part of the manufacture or assembly of other products being exported. The Lee County Port Authority, which operates Southwest Florida International Airport, (RSW), is the grantee for all FTZ-designated areas throughout Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. Contact the Southwest Florida Economic Development Alliance for help regarding our regional Foreign Trade Zones.

One hot spot within the Fort Myers FTZ is Skyplex, a site strategically located north of the RSW airport runway, offers more than 1,100 acres for commercial development, including 75 acres of prime ramp access. Skyplex is zoned for aviation related development and other commercial and light industrial uses.

Fiber and Data Center Capabilities

Power and connectivity.  Almost every business needs it to operate. Collier County is a natural cross road for several telecommunications providers who operate between Tampa and Miami. An important component to the Southwest Florida economic backbone is its digital infrastructure. One example is SkyLink, an internet service provider (ISP) carrier neutral data center facility with diverse routes supporting FPL Fibernet (acquired by Crown Castle in 2016), CenturyLink, Summit Broadband, Level 3 Communications or any other available provider. Constructed upon a natural ridge above the 500 year floodplain, the data center resides within a bunker elevated more than 40 feet above sea level with 200 mph sustained wind rated walls and roof.  Equipment housed at SkyLink remains safe and online no matter what. SkyLink experienced no loss of connectivity during or after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Major national and regional businesses and government organizations such as the U.S. Department of Defense entrust their data operations to Southwest Florida.

Southwest Florida’s Economic Backbone

Efficient commerce requires a modern and dependable infrastructure. The economic backbone of Southwest Florida, that enables industry to flourish, features reliable platforms. They include highways and secondary roads for trucking, the airports to quickly move freight, business professionals and tourists and a robust and redundant network of fiber optic cable to enable the telecommunications and information technology requirements of businesses.