Susan Davenport
President and CEO of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce

Since my move to Gainesville  from Austin, Texas, I have been asked this one question more than any other: Why in the world would you leave a city like Austin and move to Gainesville, Florida? It goes without saying that the primary reason I came to Gainesville was to undertake my position at the Gainesville Chamber. However, for those of us in the economic development profession, the question goes much deeper because the choice of cities, locations and opportunities we are fortunate to consider are numerous, and if we’re honest with ourselves, something speaks to you when you make a decision as profound as the one that involves the community in which you choose to live and work. Gainesville is one of the most unique cities I have ever studied and experienced.

For those who know me, you know I love data, and when I received that cold call from Tim Giuliani in my office in Austin asking me if I would ever consider a move (and a move to Gainesville at that), I admit I knew next to nothing about the city. I was intrigued with his description of the region and told him I would read some information and get back to him with my thoughts, but honestly, I had never considered living in Florida or thought about it at all. But, then the little “data nerd” got her information and started reading. I was, frankly, dumbfounded. How could I not know about this place? Did I miss a case study somewhere?

First, I couldn’t believe the position the University of Florida affords this community and how deeply they support it. The research, innovation and the university’s willingness to be a “game changer” for education, connection to community and drive for excellence is beyond impressive. I truly tip my hat to the Gator Nation. I was stunned at Santa Fe’s national ranking and the depth of programming it undertakes, as well as the “true” coordination with the University of Florida and what it means for students who want to learn and achieve. The life science innovation and healthcare infrastructure here is incredible (I have a medical background from my undergraduate degree), and finally, the growing tech startup community and the passion for all things Gainesville is what sparks a fire for growth — trust me, I’ve seen it. All these things (with data to back it up) stopped me cold. And, did I mention the arts community here? (I love the arts!)

So, I thought I’d fly over and take a look. I still remember walking through Gainesville Regional Airport and those sliding doors opening, showing me the first glimpse of the city. Somehow, I had gotten so caught up in the data that I forgot to read about what the city actually looked like. I thought I would see some semi-sandy grass (I did know it wasn’t on the coast) and some scattered palm trees, but the beautiful green tree canopy I saw was stunning.

The entire visit played out the same: more beautiful terrain, more interesting stories, more growth starting up and the opportunity to work with a team of professionals with a body of experience that could ensure success. I couldn’t turn it down.

I’m more impressed than the day I started. Why Gainesville? Why would I not have chosen Gainesville? I can’t wait to start hearing that from others who make the decision to make Gainesville their new home and place of business.

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