Nothing shows progress more visibly than new developments — “facelifts,” so to speak, for existing areas and beautiful landscapes. Every time I turn into or pass by Butler Plaza to do some shopping or grab a meal, I see a snapshot of where Gainesville is heading. As the employment base and commercial center for North Central Florida’s 14-county region with a population base of more than 1.2 million, Gainesville, Florida, is transforming. Butler Plaza is a key to bringing the change.

If you have driven down Archer Road or passed by the Interstate 75 exit, you’re seeing it happen before your eyes. One of the most highly traveled thoroughfares in the city of Gainesville is now a living representation of our growth. The iconic 1-million-squarefoot retail hub is more than doubling in size and giving Gainesville a whole new look. Under construction is 1.5 million square feet of new commercial space (to complement the existing 1 million square feet) with the beautiful Butler Town Center and Butler Plaza North in the mix. Every time I visit the website and see the renderings of the upcoming Town Center, I remember how important the development is and what it represents to the people who live in, travel to, and travel through Gainesville as well as those who consider the city to be their existing or new home.

In addition to the enhanced capital investment, increased tax revenues, and jobs that I speak about so often (the project will bring a total of 3,500 new jobs and is supporting 1,500 construction and ancillary jobs during the construction efforts), the beautifully designed project makes the area look new and fresh. It represents, I believe, our growing regional economy and strong future opportunity. And, since Clark Butler, and now his daughter Deborah, has worked tirelessly for decades to bring economic opportunity and prosperity to the residents of this community, it’s all the more special to those who currently call Gainesville home.

In the world of economic development, talent is the capital that is the underpinning of success for regions. Growing, retaining, and recruiting a ready and skilled workforce is the basis for success. And, studies and data show that a beautiful, accessible community with the stores, services and amenities that individuals want in their area is a major key to finding and keeping this talent. With Butler Plaza’s update and expansion underway, the students, faculty, researchers, businesses, and retirees in the area as well as the base of over 2,000,000 visitors per year that includes business travelers, Gator fans and tourists of all types have more choice and more reason to visit more often and potentially make Gainesville their home.

Clark Butler said it best when he made the comment, “Never give up on something you believe in.” As a city, we believe in Gainesville and we believe that with people like Deborah Butler, who carries the legacy of growth and opportunity for her father, Gainesville is transforming before our eyes. Make sure you see and feel it when you next visit Butler Plaza!

SUSAN DAVENPORT is President and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce.

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