BRADENTON — The most visible efforts of the Central Community Redevelopment Agency are about quality of life: smoother roads, less flooding, a new park with facilities galore, and a colorful housing development.
But Sherod Halliburton, executive director of the agency that serves south Bradenton, says providing the area better amenities is actually part of a long-term, holistic economic improvement strategy.
“When you look at the developments in this community, we can show some projects that are real jewels,” he says. “And that allows me to make the case to the outside investment community that there’s a lot going on here.”
Halliburton’s strategy, since the CCRA was founded 10 years ago, has been to first show a downtrodden neighborhood that it deserves the same amenities as the rest of the community.
Then about four years ago, he began focusing on workforce training programs so that low-wage workers could improve their skills and get better jobs. About two years ago, Halliburton joined with other organization leaders to focus on micro-business lending so that underground mom and pop operations could become part of the mainstream business community.
All along, Halliburton has been laying the groundwork to attract businesses and investors within the CCRA’s boundaries, which generally run from Sixth Street West to 27th Street East, and from Martin Luther King Avenue on the north to 13th Avenue on the south.
His efforts have drawn the praise of numerous community business leaders.
“Sherod’s a visionary kind of person, says Sharon Hilstrom, associate director of the Manatee County Economic Development Council. “He has really come up with some innovative programs, and he’s always looking for opportunities for the betterment of the people in the community that he serves.”
“He’s helping to revitalize an area of our community,” says Neil Spirtas, vice president for public policy for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, “and that’s going to assist in keeping people employed.”
Halliburton’s leadership of the CCRA is even being recognized by the Florida Redevelopment Association, which helps guide the state’s 207 community redevelopment agencies. The association’s executive director, Carol Westmoreland, says Halliburton was “ahead of his time” by starting several years ago to focus on economic development.
“In general, CRAs are only now starting to focus on that,” Westmoreland says.
When the district was created in 2000, its per-capita income was just over $9,000; more than one-third of its residents earned less than $15,000 a year.
Those statistics are part of the reason why smoother roads, improved streetscaping, better lighting, flood control and even the facilities-packed Norma Lloyd Park were important first priorities, Halliburton says.