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Business alliance updates developments in Lakewood Ranch

The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance's Road Show highlighted new education and innovation opportunities.

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Tammy Parrott, the library services manager for Manatee County, was standing in a massive shell of a building on Nov, 4, talking about the biggest part of the future Lakewood Ranch Library.

She was talking more about importance than size.

“This will be the busiest of the eight (buildings in the Manatee County library system),” she said. “And it will stay the busiest.”

Every time Manatee County has opened a branch, Parrott said, residents flock to the new building until the newness wears off. Parrott told about 25 Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance members on their semiannual Road Show to not expect that in Lakewood Ranch.

“We will have more opportunities here because of the size,” she said.

The size is 25,000 square feet on the first floor. Another 25,000 square feet will remain a shell on the second floor until Manatee County decides how to use it. It could involve an expansion of the library or general meeting space. The roof will offer more usable space, but far less than 25,000 feet of the two floors below. Parrott said the Convention and Visitors Bureau will have control over the roof space when the building opens late in 2023.

Fawley Bryant Architecture owner Stu Henderson says his firm wanted to create a library where kids
Fawley Bryant Architecture owner Stu Henderson says his firm wanted to create a library where kids "could see interesting things." (Photo by Jay Heater)

Even so, the library figures to benefit from all of it, along with the surrounding Premier Park, which is county owned, and eventually will feature an aquatics complex, a pickleball complex and perhaps an indoor event center/gymnasium. An amphitheater, softball fields and a dog park are supposedly in the works, but the county has shown little progress in those areas.

John Holz, the economic impact chair for the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, said Lakewood Ranch Library’s impact will go far beyond educating those who visit.

“It brings people here,” he said of people moving to Lakewood Ranch. “It brings jobs here.”

The library itself will have a staff of 17 when it opens, but Holz was referring to such a great resource strengthening the draw of a community that already ranks as the No. 1 selling multigenerational community in the nation.

Parrott also noted the library wouldn’t be only a year away if not for the work of the Friends of the Lakewood Ranch Library, who also had an effect on the scope of the project.

“It is an example of what a community can do when it is committed,” Parrott said.

This version of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance’s Road Show had a title of "Education to Innovation," and the Lakewood Ranch Library was just one stop.

Innovation was the highlight of the first stop, which was RND Automation on Lakewood Ranch Boulevard.

“We design custom automation for a number of industries,” said Chad Malone, who is RND Automation’s supervisor of mechanical engineering.

Three years ago, RND started with 35,000 square feet at its current site. Now it has 68,000 square feet.

While the innovations are heavy on robotics, Malone said the system upgrades are not meant to eliminate workers but to enhance output. He said a person who previously was making 10 parts can now make 100 in the same time thanks to the advanced technology.

“Businesses want to keep people and have more output,” he said.

RND, which has approximately 50 employees is working with local institutions and trade schools to develop its future workforce.

RND Automation was the first stop of the tour, followed by the library and then the Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy, which opened its K-8 school on White Eagle Boulevard in August and now is building its upper, or high, school next door. It is due for completion before the next school year.

The final stop was Waterside Place.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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