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Economic impact of controversial portriat

Warren Wright

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Economic impact of controversial portriat

CREATED Aug. 16, 2013

FORT MYERS, Fla.- Lee County is working to lure more companies like Hertz but some say, companies may re-think moving here,  now that the KKK is patting the county on the back for keeping the the controversial portrait of Robert E Lee in the county commission chambers.

Its the letter read round the world ... the KKK's letter of support to the county commissioners has gone viral.
TV stations around Florida and several national publications, such as the Washington Times, have given it prominent coverage.
And the owner of the Shoppes on Broadway art gallery wonders if all that coverage of the KKK endorsement might discourage big companies from moving to Lee County. 
Elijah Masathi said "the last thing we want to do is to be known or branded or re-branded in a way that is not beneficial to us in the long term."
The director of Dunbar Community School agrees, saying the General Lee controversy could make the county look backwards to outsiders: "if we want to move forward, then we've got to do the things that allow us to move forward."
He says keeping the portrait of someone who fought to keep slavery, front and center in the chamber, could be seen as a message of inferiority to people of color.
He'd like to see a community conversation that makes the chamber a place of unity rather than controversy.
Masathi agrees and says "the chambers should be a place where everyone feels comfortable and the atmosphere is conducive for everyone."
He also suggests the portrait be moved to a less prominent spot,  preserving history, without turning off employers considering moving into lee county. 
He points out that "we don't want to be seen in a negative way on a national level."
Jim moore with the Lee County Economic Development Office said he doesn't "see this as having a chilling effect on bringing in new businesses to the area."
Warren Wright