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Going Strong

Southwest

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metro area tops Forbes’ 2017 list of America’s fastest growing cities. Anticipated growth: population, 3.6%; employment, 3.8%; output 6.8% (thanks to expanding hospitality and housing markets).

Collier County boasts the highest per capita income in Florida ($71,596), 7th highest proportion of millionaires in the U.S. and best health. For the 2nd year in a row, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island was named America’s healthiest, happiest community. (Gallup-Healthways State of America Well-Being 2016)

Southwest
  • Population / 1,265,937
  • Labor Force / 565,401
  • Households / 540,711
  • Total Earnings / $26.1 bil.
  • Median Per Capita Income / $45,821
  • Total Retail Sales / $20.75 bil.
  • Universities/Colleges / 4
  • Commercial Airports / 2

The livin’ is easy and rewarding in southwest Florida where a vibrant economy and good health habits work hand in hand.

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Life Sciences/Health Care

LEE COUNTY Lee Memorial Health System continues to expand. In early 2017, Lee Health opened its 128-bed, $242-million Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The facility features a pediatric emergency department and a 64-room neonatal ICU. Also construction began at Lee Health-Coconut Point, a 163,000-sq.-ft. outpatient campus expected to open in fall 2018. Coming next: an additional 24,000 square feet at Lee Health’s Regional Cancer Center to accommodate a larger pharmacy, genetic counseling services and palliative care.

FORT MYERS Florida Gulf Coast University has opened a genetic research center at its newly completed Emergent Technologies Institute. The Clinical & Transitional Research Institute will work with health care providers to study best methods for prescribing commonly used drugs based on a patient’s genetic makeup.

NAPLES Wolford College, a singularly focused private school in Naples, produces a fifth of the nurse anesthetists that are trained annually in Florida. Enrollment in Wolford’s 28-month master’s degree program is limited to 64 students a year.

Key Players

Arthrex | Naples
Lee Memorial Health System | Fort Myers
NCH Healthcare System | Naples

Arthrex will expand its operations in North Naples with an investment of $63 million and the creation of 560 jobs. A global leader in arthroscopic surgery and developer of more than 9,500 orthopedics surgical procedures and products, Arthrex employs 2,300+ in southwest Florida and trains 6,000 physicians annually.

Southwest

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY (continued)

Logistics / Transportation

FORT MYERS Southwest Florida International Airport broke two records in 2016 — largest number of passengers served in a year (8.6 million) and single-largest month for passenger traffic (nearly 1.3 million in March alone). Twelve carriers offer non-stop flights to five international and more than 40 U.S. destinations.

PUNTA GORDA Food products distribution firm Cheney Brothers Inc., which opened a 345,000-sq.-ft. distribution center along I-75 in Charlotte County in 2015, has exceeded its goal of creating 380 jobs within five years and continues to grow. Cheney exports food products worldwide and serves customers in Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas from distribution centers in Ocala, Orlando, Miami and Punta Gorda.

Key Players

Allyn International | Fort Myers
Cheney Brothers | Punta Gorda
R+L Logistics | Fort Myers

Punta Gorda Airport experienced its busiest year in 2016 and continues to grow. The 1.1 million passengers served in 2016 represented a 34% increase over the previous year. Frontier Airlines launched air service from Punta Gorda in fall 2016 with non-stop flights to Chicago O’Hare, Philadelphia and Trenton, N.J., and beginning in fall 2017, Allegiant Air will add five non-stop routes to its current 32.

 

Technology/Finance

BONITA SPRINGS Software solutions provider eMaint Enterprises has been named to Deloitte’s list of fastest growing tech companies in North America for the fourth consecutive year. In 2016, the Florida-based firm, which was recently acquired by Fluke Corp., a global leader in electronic test tools and software, relocated to Bonita Springs and added 150 jobs.

NAPLES Electronic payments firm ACI Worldwide will spend $1.5 million to expand operations and double its staff with 57 jobs. From its headquarters in Naples, ACI powers electronic payments totaling up to $14 trillion per day for some 5,100 organizations. One of the Gulf Coast’s largest companies by revenue, ACI is No. 18 on the latest IDC Financial Insights 2016 Fintech Rankings.

FORT MYERS Tech research and advisory firm Gartner plans its fourth expansion here since 2012. This latest development, an investment of more than $21 million, is expected to create 600 jobs in sales, client service, research and finance. A fixture in southwest Florida for nearly 20 years, Gartner employs almost 9,000 associates across the globe. The Fort Myers office is its second-largest with a staff of more than 1,100.

Key Players

ACI Worldwide | Naples
ASG Technologies | Naples
Gartner | Fort Myers

 

Manufacturing

CAPE CORAL Custom boat builder Nor-Tech will establish its world headquarters at North Cape industrial park with construction of a 45,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility; 150 jobs are expected.

Key Players

Fox Electronics | Fort Myers
Pelican Wire | Naples
S4J Manufacturing | Cape Coral

 

Tourism/Hospitality

CHARLOTTE COUNTY Tourism officials have begun marketing Charlotte County as one of the best places in Florida for outdoor recreation with the tag line “Our Best Side Is Outside.” The county offers 28 miles of sandy beaches and 53 canoe and kayak “blueway” trails totaling more than 190 miles.

Key Players

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa | Bonita Springs
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort | Marco Island
Ritz Carlton | Naples
South Seas Island Resort | Captiva Island

Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort & Spa has opened a $7.1-million water park that includes three-story water slides and a heated lazy river

 

Southwest

LIFE & LEISURE

Be lively or laid-back
It’s your choice. Florida’s southwest has the right combination: quaint shops and galleries to explore in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs and Naples; symphony orchestras, theaters, festivals and museums; non-stop adventure on 22 miles of ATV trails at Florida Tracks & Trails in Punta Gorda; natural wonders like Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Ten Thousand Islands, Big Cypress Preserve and Everglades National Park; and, of course, the ultimate luxury get-aways — Captiva and Sanibel Islands.

Kayaking in Charlotte County

Educational excellence
Florida SouthWestern State College — ranked one of the nation’s “50 Best Community Colleges” by College Choice in 2017 — offers baccalaureate, associate and certificate programs at four sites across the region. And at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, 53 undergraduate and 26 graduate programs are offered as well as workshops and counseling for entrepreneurs at its Small Business Development Center. Also in southwest Florida, two private universities: Hodges, with campuses in Naples and Fort Myers and a class-size average of just 14, and Ave Maria, a Catholic university and surrounding town just outside Naples created by Domino’s Pizza founder Tom Monaghan.

Staying healthy and fit
Named America’s healthiest city for the second time in 2016, Naples refuses to rest on its laurels. This city is Florida’s first to embrace the Blue Zones Project, a community-wide well-being improvement initiative to help make healthy choices easier. The concept originated from research by National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner who identified the common healthy-living traits of five “blue zones” – places in the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians. NCH Healthcare System launched the Blue Zones Project in Naples and, to date, more than 50 organizations and businesses across southwest Florida have joined the effort to make this already healthy region an even better place to live, work and play.

A place in the sun
Developer Syd Kitson’s bold plan to build a town in southwest Florida that would run on solar power is soon to be reality. Construction on homes is under way and the first residents are expected to move in before the end of 2017; a charter public school is taking shape. Already in place is Founders Square, in the heart of downtown, and the 74.5-megawatt Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center built by Florida Power & Light to power the community’s planned 19,500 homes and 6 million square feet of civic, commercial and industrial space.

Babcock Ranch rendering