Industry Outlook 2005
The industries to watch most closely in Florida in 2005 will be those whose fortunes are linked either to interest rates or to the hurricanes that struck the state this summer.
Housing continues to sizzle with few signs of overheating. Statewide, median home prices rose 20% in the first three quarters of 2004. In Miami, it's condo-mania, with builders able to claim 80% sales within hours of opening sales offices. Elsewhere, carpets of subdivisions keep rolling out. In Pasco County, a suburban county north of Tampa, officials issued a record 5,603 single-family permits through October. Developers, mortgage brokers and contractors will all stay happy -- unless interest rates spike.
Reconstruction efforts in areas hit by the hurricanes will also drive the economy. Builders, home-improvement retailers and utilities are all benefiting.
The hurricanes left a lot of pain along with opportunity, however. Thousands of acres of citrus and other crops were damaged. Some farmers may decide now's the time to sell to developers. Meanwhile, many homeowners are having to pay insurance deductibles running into the thousands of dollars and are in no shape to indulge themselves at the mall. Insurance companies were left with depleted reserves after $17.5 billion in hurricane damage. Talk of increasing premiums began even before Ivan had time to finish blowing through.
Other Florida-specific events will play key roles in shaping the prospects for business in the year ahead. Retailers are lamenting the new minimum wage standards that voters approved in November. University of Florida marketing professor Erik Gordon is predicting a slowdown in growth for retailers -- for the first time in several years.
The fallout from the various constitutional amendments pitting doctors vs. lawyers is unclear at this point, but some parts of the state's healthcare system may struggle, particularly trauma centers, which are already battling a shortage of neurosurgeons and state funding.
With interest rates as a caveat, Florida should be able to continue generating jobs. For the year that ended in October, 145,000 Florida jobs were created; unemployment dropped to 4.5% from 4.9% a year earlier -- encouraging signs after a summer of high winds and rain.