Thomas Krueger’s goal is for Longwood to no longer be thought of as a doughnut hole.
As head of economic development for this city of roughly 14,000 — a number that has stayed static since at least 1990 — Krueger’s goal is to get business and development flowing.
His allusion to the doughnut hole has to do with the sentiment that economic growth is occurring in cities all around Longwood, but not there.
“It was decided years ago that this would be a bedroom community,” with little else going on, Krueger said. “We are out to change that."
Krueger, who has been in his position for just under two years, holds regular meetings with developers, builders, bankers, restaurant operators and retailers in effort to talk up the city’s attributes, which include convenient transportation like a SunRail station and quick access to Interstate 4 by car.
The city is also working on shoring up its infrastructure by improving roads and putting in sidewalks, and looking to make life more appealing to potential residents by developing a true downtown.
Krueger also stepped up the city's program to aggregate all commercial properties that are for sale or lease in Longwood, from LoopNet and other real estate sites, and put them on the city’s website to allow one-stop shopping.
“I look at Longwood as a blank slate,” Krueger said.
The results so far is some companies opening shop in the city and others deciding to stay put.
Not bad for a one-time quadriplegic.
Krueger spent three months incapacitated after a weightlifting accident in October 2013.
With two vertebrae in his back shattered and a staph infection that set in after, he was given very little chance of moving his limbs again and if so, not for a couple of years.
After intense rehab for several months, he started seeing improvement and although still subject to periods of discomfort, he is very much back on track.
The accident spurred a life decision for the Ohio native, whose background was as a manager in the steel and transformer industries, as well as systems automation.
Krueger also had economic development experience as a site selection consultant and an economic development officer for the city of Medina, Ohio.
He and his wife decided that a warmer climate would be much better for his health, so they looked around the southeast for a position for him, and settled on Longwood when the city offered a job.
He finds the position very rewarding. "You are not only helping a company relocate or expand, you’re also assisting in the economic activity of a community as a whole.”
Krueger has really taken to Central Florida, mixing his love of fitness with the area’s attributes.
He is the shot put and discus throwing coach for the Florida Gliders, a track and field club made up of people ages six to 60. He also enjoys working out.
He and his wife are explorers, taking in the Gulf Coast whenever they can and enjoying the natural settings of the area’s parks.
His wife is also “a Disney nut,” so there is plenty of time spent at the Magic Kingdom, Krueger said.
Next up for Krueger is fishing. He did the lakes and streams in Ohio and now wants to explore salt water fishing, with bass his initial choice.
“It’s all about succeeding,” he said. “And giving your best, whether it be recreationally or in business.”