Commerical Connection: SW Florida must pull together on the basics
Commercial Connection: SW Florida must pull together on the basics
The Great Recession of 2008 is officially over, according to a panel of economists from the National Bureau of Economic Research, a widely accepted arbiter of business cycles. In fact, the recession reached its "trough" (end of the decline and the subsequent beginning of the rise) in June 2009.
History and economic patterns remind us that immediately following a trough, declining periods are categorized as expansion periods in which markets level, stabilize, prepare for growth, and no doubt, create opportunity.
What's our next move to restore favorable economic conditions in Southwest Florida? Growth. A back-to-basics approach that serves to shift the focus from a cynical viewpoint of near-term economic conditions, to a cyclical one.
Southwest Florida's high quality of life, good access to excellent health care, safe, low-crime neighborhoods, and high education standards will ensure our growth and prosperity for generations to come. If we all simply work on the basics, the market will take care of itself.
On a county level, research from BEBR shows a population forecast of 2.2 percent per year from 2010 to 2030 - creating substantial opportunity for our area to benefit from increases in our resident base.
What's our role in spurring such growth? First and foremost, converting visitors to residents.
Tamara Pigott, executive director of Lee County's Visitor and Convention Bureau, states that "everyone in the community has a responsibility to sell visitors on returning."
Pigott explains that "most people are first drawn to our area as a visitor, due in large part to our beautiful coastal ecosystem (beaches, shelling, fishing, migratory bird watching, etc.). We have a huge number of repeat visitors, which tells me that they love it. They come back year after year. Doing so makes them want to relocate here, retire here, move their business here, etc."
As Pigott states, it is the role of everyone in the community to help facilitate growth through expansion and smart growth-sustainable initiatives. Increases in job growth are a vital element to the overall success of Southwest Florida's recovery, and even in less-than-certain economic times, Lee County businesses are doing their part.
According to the recent Manpower Employment Outlook Survey, Lee County will add the second most jobs of any metropolitan area in the nation before the year end - second only to San Antonio, Texas. Given the tourism-related nature of our Southwest Florida market, we can assume some of these jobs are temporary positions in preparation for tourist season, yet, on a larger scale, the survey shows 22 percent of all companies surveyed in Lee County plan to hire - double the percentage of last year's survey.
Pocket of growth
With population growth and job increases on the horizon, we effectually pave the way for subsequent and successive business and industry growth. In fact, growth has been prolific in certain areas of Lee County. With many areas of Florida (and in Southwest Florida) in "anti-growth" mode and experiencing stagnation in the land development arena, Lee County remains in front of the 8-ball.
Consider the geographic area east of I-75 and north of FGCU, which has exploded in development in recent years. Sizable amounts of high-quality infrastructure and housing development have been constructed in this cone of growth in recent years, perhaps spurred in part by a significant increase in enrollment at FGCU.
The student base at FGCU has increased approximately 229 percent from 2000 to 2010, with a total head count of 12,047 students enrolled in the fall term of 2010.
Further, with Lee County slated to open the doors of the state-of-the-art JetBlue Park in January, Lee County hopes to draw increased numbers of ball fans to the area. The 9,400-seat ballpark reminiscent of Fenway Park is set to rival major league stadiums anywhere in the country, and pump tens of millions of dollars into the local economy - an unprecedented financial impact.
Southwest Florida has inherent value, a lot of it. Southwest Florida is a destination and it continues to be a substantial draw for visitors of all ages and continues to be major receiver market for population increases. It is our job to get back to the basics of a healthy economy, which will effectuate the change we seek.