» Housing costs push the cost of living in Naples well above the U.S. average (110 vs. 100 for the U.S. average). This summer, the median home sales price in Naples was $201,000, compared with $140,400 statewide. The cost of living countywide is slightly less than the national average.
» About 10% of county residents have incomes below the poverty level, compared with the statewide average of 12.6%.
» In Naples, the median household income is $74,959, compared with the state average of $47,802. Meanwhile, 61% of households receive Social Security and 29% received retirement income apart from Social Security.
• Economic Engines
Barron Collier Cos. donated land for the town of Ave Maria in eastern Collier County.
» The history of the Barron Collier Cos. began in 1911, when Barron Gift Collier Sr., who had already made millions from a streetcar advertising business in New York City, visited southwest Florida and purchased Useppa Island for $100,000. Today, the development company he founded is one of the county’s biggest employers. Apart from having a hand in developing the town of Ave Maria and the Grey Oaks community, the company also develops shopping centers and office parks and has interests in agriculture, oil and minerals. Collier Enterprises, another Collier family-related company, is also a major player. Collier Enterprises, founded in 1976 by Collier family member Miles C. Collier, develops commercial properties, housing communities and golf and yacht clubs. Over the next 12 to 15 years, Collier Enterprises plans to develop a new town called Big Cypress in eastern Collier County. Big Cypress could have as many as 9,000 homes on 2,800 acres.
Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in Sarasota [Photo: Mark Wieland]
» The Ritz-Carlton Naples played a trailblazing role in helping build Naples’ reputation as luxury vacation destination. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, the resort has 450 rooms and routinely wins top ratings from AAA, Mobil and Conde Nast Traveler.
Farmworkers swell the county's population during harvest season.
» Most of the year, Immokalee is a small agricultural community with about 20,000 residents. But the population swells to 40,000 during the October-through-May vegetable growing season, mainly because of an influx of migrant farmworkers. Collier County government and economic development officials are looking to spur development in the town by offering incentives for businesses to expand or move there. Ecotourism is one potential growth area. Also, an Immokalee Community Redevelopment Agency is looking to update the streetscape along Immokalee’s central business district.
National hospital company Health Management Associates
is based in Naples.
» NCH Healthcare System has 681 beds in two hospitals and, with more than 5,000 workers, is the county’s largest private employer. Physician’s Regional Health Care System, which also has two hospitals, is owned by Health Management Associates, a national hospital company that’s headquartered in Naples. Collier Health Services operates 12 healthcare facilities, including the Ronald McDonald Care Mobile, a 40-foot-long pediatric office on wheels that delivers healthcare to needy children throughout the county. Last year, the private, non-profit organization provided services to more than 47,000 patients. Nearly two-thirds were children.
» Southwest Florida International Airport, the nearest international airport, is in Lee County, but Collier County has several airports of its own, including the Naples Municipal Airport, Marco Island Executive Airport, the Immokalee Regional Airport and the Everglades Airpark. The U.S. Customs service is building an office at Naples Municipal so pilots and passengers flying from the Caribbean won’t have to stop at a larger airport first to clear customs.
U.S. Customs is building an office at Naples Municipal Airport.
» Along the coast, Naples boasts some of the most luxurious resorts in the state. In 2009, 1.3 million people visited Collier, down from 1.4 million in 2008. The economic impact of 2009’s tourists was estimated at $1.13 billion. According to the August 2010 Visitor Profile by the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, 87.1% of visitors said they were interested in the county’s “white, sandy beaches.” More than 30,000 people are employed in the tourism industry.
» Catholic-oriented Ave Maria University, located on a 1,000-acre campus in eastern Collier County, has 710 undergraduate students, as well as a law school. The university offers an array of bachelor’s degrees, including biology, economics, history and literature. Founded by Domino’s Pizza creator Thomas S. Monaghan, the university opened its doors in Florida seven years ago, thanks to an initial donation of $250 million from Monaghan and a land donation from the Barron Collier Cos. The university has also spurred the development of the town of Ave Maria. Other major colleges include Edison State College, which has a 50-acre campus five miles north of downtown Naples; Hodges University, which has campuses in Naples and Fort Myers; and Barry University, which also hosts classes in Naples and Fort Myers.
» The state’s real estate struggles haven’t completely stopped development in Collier County. Although based in Lee County’s Bonita Springs, development company WCI Communities is a major player in Collier County’s development scene, with projects such as Tiburon, Artesia and Hammock Bay. WCI’s Manchester Square is slated to be a gated community with 117 homes in North Naples. Collier Enterprises has Collier’s Reserve, a 244-home country club community along the Cocohatchee River, and Sabal Bay, a planned 1,500-acre community in south Naples that would have no more 1,659 residential units.