Filling Vacant Storefronts

8:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.

Palma Ceia 1-2

We all have them, and they are, we are sad to say, very visible. We all strive to explain the why, the how and the when to our citizens and others about vacancies in the redevelopment areas. How can you as one individual connect to businesses who would want to locate in these properties? There are resources readily available to connect those with space with those looking to open a storefront, even in this digital age. Entrepreneurs, i.e. start-up, new and incu- bator and other prospective business owners are looking for you!

Presenters: Tony Otte, CEcD, FRA-RA, CRA/Economic Development Director, City of New Smyrna Beach; Michael Zaharios III, Program Director, Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center; and Ken Thomas, MPA, Director of Housing & Redevelopment, City of Leesburg

CM I 1.0

Tony Otte Mr. Otte is the CRA and Economic Development Manager for the City of New Smyrna Beach. He is a current FRA Board Member and has over 30 years of redevelopment & economic development experience – as a City Manager; CRA and Economic Development Director. His commercial realtor experience has spanned many years, and he maintains his Florida Real Estate Sales Associate license (voluntarily inactive). He managed a family construction business, is a IEDC Certified Economic Developer and a FRA Florida Redevelopment Administrator. He has a master’s degree in Public Affairs from the University of Cincinnati and a bachelor’s Degree, Thomas More College, Crestview Hills, Kentucky.

Michael Zaharios III As a third-generation entrepreneur, Mr. Zaharios’ passion for innovation started at a young age while spending afternoons learning about business from his dad and grandfather at their automotive repair shop in Daytona Beach. While earning a bachelor’s degree and MBA, he helped lay the groundwork for the inception of the Florida Virtual Entrepreneur Center. He oversees this organization, which has grown into an online network and educational resource for entrepreneurs across Florida’s 67 counties. He is passionate about giving back to the community through volunteering, and facilitating events such as 1 Million Cups, Kickstart Weekend and Startup Grind. 

Ken Thomas Mr. Thomas is the Director of Housing & Redevelopment for the City of Leesburg. He has served local governments for over 30 years; most of his work experience has involved redevelopment of neighborhoods. He is currently the Director of Housing & Redevelopment for the City of Leesburg; Ken has been employed with the City of Leesburg for 17 years. Prior to Leesburg, Ken worked at the City of Delray Beach and Orange County Government; he holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Historic Bethune Cookman University. 

Ken has dedicated his professional life to redeveloping neighborhoods; providing affordable housing, small business development and job creation. Ken created the first Business Incubator in Lake County (known as the Leesburg Business Incubator). He has been responsible for local governments receiving millions of dollars in grant funds for housing and redevelopment efforts. Ken was responsible for renovating an apartment complex utilizing grant funding, which resulted in the first housing incubation program focused on providing temporary housing to individuals who desired to become first time homebuyers. Most recently, Mr. Thomas has been responsible for the first Resource Center in Lake County. Ken is a Board Member of the Florida Redevelopment Association, Central Florida Health Foundation Board Chairman, and the Leesburg High School Power Academy Advisory Board and Lake County Housing Advisory Board. Ken has been married to his wife (Maria) for 29 years and they have four children.