2012 Florida Economic Yearbook
VGTI and Digital Domain get permanent facilities. Real estate continues to be a drag on an area that flew high during the housing boom.
This year saw the official opening of facilities for two government-supported enterprises on the "Research Coast" that promise to create several hundred jobs — entertainment producer Digital Domain Holdings and life science institute VGTI Florida. Every silver lining has its cloud, and in St. Lucie, which flew highest in the boom, that's home building. Don Santos of Santos Construction in Port St. Lucie and a past president of the Treasure Coast Builders Association has the grim statistic: Housing starts are a tenth of what they were at the peak. "In a word, devastating," Santos says. Bankruptcies, closed doors and an exodus of the unemployed ensued. Gail Kavanagh, the recently retired executive director of the Treasure Coast Builders Association, says membership fell to 315 from more than 1,200. But, Santos says of the market, "It has bottomed out and is getting slightly better."
Businesses to Watch
Cracker Boy Boat Works, which operates service yards, has added employees. [Photo: Cracker Boy Boat Works]
» Cracker Boy Boat Works: The company is small, operating service yards in Riviera Beach and Fort Pierce, where it employs just 13. But because it caters to the middle market and do-it-yourself owners, it has become a bellwether for the marine industry, a critical sector on the Treasure Coast. Cracker Boy's Martin Murphy Sr. says business is up from the "terrible" level in the recession. He has bought a new lift for Fort Pierce and has added a few workers.
|St. Lucie Population: 290,384|
|Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 1.62%|
|Population by Age:|
|Per Capita Income: $31,217|
|MSA||Dec. 2011||Dec. 2010||% Change||Jobless Rate|
|Port St. Lucie||165,350||165,946||-.4%||11.2%|
|Sebastian Inlet Vero Beach||55,253||54,022||+2.3%||11.4%|
|Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation|
|Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales|
|MSA||2011 Sales||1-Year Change||2011 Price||1-Year Change|
|Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie||5,599||-6%||$108,200||NC|
|Source: Florida Realtors; year-end sales, median price|
|St. Lucie County Consumer Bankruptcies|
|Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center|