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Clermont's Olympians help drive economic development to city

Clermont's Olympians help drive economic development to city
Daniel Estrada (middle) smiles as he wins the 100-meter dash ahead of Shaun Shivers (left) and Yasir Abdullah (right) during the Golden South Invitational Track Meet at the National Training Center in Clermont on Saturday, May 28, 2016. (Stephen M. Dowell / Orlando Sentinel)

The 20 Olympic medalists from Clermont brought home five gold, three silver and two bronze medals between them from the 2016 Summer Olympics, plus some seeds for economic development that are starting to sprout in the hilly Lake County city nicknamed "The Choice of Champions."

The sheer number of Clermont-trained Olympians competing and winning medals in Rio de Janeiro introduced Clermont to an international audience, said Doris Bloodsworth, city spokeswoman.

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Clermont was mentioned as home to the 20 local athletes competing during the games so often that one announcer actually questioned what was going on in Clermont to create so many competitive athletes.

Triathletes compete in a recent event on Clermont's lakefront.
Triathletes compete in a recent event on Clermont's lakefront. (City of Clermont)

And the buzz followed the athletes home. The city has been getting two kinds of telephone calls. The first from athletic teams who want to come and practice in Clermont, and the others from international investors from Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Turkey where the economies are ailing, looking for an investment to safely hold their cash.

"Definitely there is an increase in the frequency and the depth of the conversations (from potential investors)," said Shannon J. Schmidt, Clermont's director of economic development.

Clermont is home to the National Training Center, which supports training for a variety of sports, as well as softball training academy PFX Athletics.

The city is planning an investor event for the near future, perhaps October. The plan is to invite some commercial real estate agents to talk to investors, both international and local, about various opportunities in town as well as the city's master plan.

The Olympic buzz is already credited with bringing a new sporting event to town next summer. Clermont was chosen to host The USA Canoe/Kayak National Sprint Championship in the first week of August 2017.

Melinda Mack, executive director of the South Florida Canoe Kayak Club, said Clermont came out ahead of three other potential Eastern venues for the competition.

"Aesthetically, the area is beautiful, and there are two miles of shoreline" allowing for easier viewing of the competition, she said. The area is walkable, there is a boathouse on site, a nearby international airport, restaurants and theme parks. All those things made a big difference, Mack added.

The four-day event is expected to bring 1,000 people to Clermont and many will stay longer than four days, choosing to visit theme parks and other attractions while they are in the area, she said. Also some will come to town even earlier to acclimate to the climate and area.

She said already teams are booking hotel rooms in and around the city. She isn't worried about a shortage of hotels because some plan to rent houses for the whole family.

Mack also isn't worried about the high temperatures in Florida during the summer. This year's event was held in Oklahoma City where the temperatures soared above 100 degrees during the competition.

Teresa Burney can be reached at 352-455-1955 or at Teresaburney4@gmail.com. Follow GrowthSpotter on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.

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