October 2, 2023

2018 Economic Yearbook

Southwest Florida: Snapshot of the region's economic strengths and challenges, people to watch

Art Levy | 3/28/2018


CHALLENGE: Economic Recovery

On Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma, the first Category 4 storm to hit Florida since Charley in 2004, came ashore near Marco Island. The storm blew over trees, damaged buildings, brought down power lines and knocked out cell phone service to 73% of the county. Irma killed at least two people in Collier and caused an estimated $320 million in property damage. Collier’s economy has rebounded quickly, however. Residents got nearly $33 million in Irma-related FEMA aid by the end of the year, and single-family home sales increased 4% from 2016 to 2017. The median home sales price rose from $400,000 in 2016 to $418,000 last year. Many of Naples’ famed arts venues impacted by the storm — such as the G&L Theatre and the Gulfshore Playhouse — have reopened. Just three months after the storm, the county agreed to spend $12 million to buy 61 acres to build a sports complex that will include a 3,000-seat stadium.

People to Watch

Stephen V. Rodriguez: As president and CEO of Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates in Sarasota, Rodriguez heads the organization that manages Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park. He is charged with building on the world-class rowing venue’s recent success. Last year, the park hosted the prestigious World Rowing Championships, and this year’s calendar includes the 2018 World Rowing Masters Regatta. Rodriguez is working now to raise $10 million for upgrades.

Steve Moseley: Previously an executive vice president at Mid- Florida Credit Union, Mosely was promoted to president. The credit union, the fourth-biggest in the state, has 40 branches, 850 employees and $3 billion in assets.

Lucienne Pears: For two straight years, Consultant Connect, a Michigan-based economic development consultant, has named Pears one of the top 50 economic developers in North America. As director of the Charlotte County Economic Development Office, she played an instrumental role in each of Charlotte County’s economic development wins over the last few years, helping the county attract Western Michigan, Cheney Bros., Allegiant’s Sunseeker Resort, Metalcraft Marine, Stanley Aluminum Boat Builders and a planned 160-acre entertainment district in Murdock Village.

Lakshmi Shenoy: The CEO of Innovation Hub at Water Street came to Tampa earlier this year to drive the creation of innovative businesses and ideas at Strategic Property Partners’ $3-billion Water Street development in downtown Tampa. Shenoy, 34, had been vice president of strategy and business at a Chicago-based entrepreneurship hub called 1871 that UBI Global, an incubation industry consulting company, ranked as the top universityaffiliated incubator in the country. She’ll work with SPP’s Jeff Vinik, who spearheaded the hub’s creation and has plans to launch a $50-million venture capital fund to encourage innovation.

Jeffrey D. Senese: Senese became Saint Leo University’s first provost of academic and student aff airs earlier this year. He’ll oversee the school’s educational programs. He had been provost and vice president of academic affairs at Cardinal Stritch University, one of the nation’s largest Franciscan universities.

Lisa Wheeler-Bowman: This year, Wheeler-Bowman took over the top leadership role at the St. Petersburg City Council, which for the first time has a female majority. Wheeler-Bowman is expected to serve as a bridge between Mayor Rick Kriseman and the city council. Her ascent coincides with that of two other African-Americans who took leadership roles this year in Pinellas County: Ken Welch became chair of the Pinellas County Commission, and Rene Flowers chairs the Pinellas County School Board.

Regional Roundup

Citrus County
County Population: 147,995, +6.5% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 4.7%
Per Capita Income: $38,511

Joe Meek, a local builder and former Citrus County commissioner, was named chairman of the 900-member Citrus County Chamber of Commerce. Meek says he will focus on improving service to companies looking to relocate to Citrus County. Chamber staff have been instructed to get a firm’s questions answered immediately. Meek says he will also try to help existing firms grow. Meanwhile, David Reed was named the chamber’s chair-elect.

Charlotte County
County Population: 180,830, +9.7% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 18.5%
Per Capita Income: $41,239

Passenger traffic at the Punta Gorda Airport increased by 14.4% from 2016 to 2017. The boost has been fueled by Allegiant Air, which continues to add routes. Currently, the airline has non-stop service to 40 cities. The county has enacted a new sign code, limiting the size, frequency of use and timeframe of temporary signage, including banners, flags and pennants.

Collier County
County Population: 380,472, +12.1% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 22.9%
Per Capita Income: $85,421

The Gulfshore Playhouse is raising money to build a $45-million theater and education center in Naples Square. The Tamiami Angel Fund III of Naples invested $400,000 in Vital Vio, a New York-based health technology firm that makes germ-killing LED lighting systems.

DeSoto County
County Population: 36,456, +5.1% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 6.2%
Per Capita Income: $24,921

In March, the iconic Arcadia All Florida Championship Rodeo was held for the first time in the new Mosaic Arena, a stadium for which Mosaic contributed $3 million. The arena also includes space for the William G. “Kayo” Welles Florida Cowboy Museum.

Glades County
County Population: 14,128, +7.9% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: 3.6%
Per Capita Income: $22,246

Love’s Travel Stops has opened a truck stop near the junction of U.S. 27 and SR 78 near Moore Haven. The facility, with 77 parking spaces for trucks with trailers, is the company’s 14th travel stop in Florida.

Hardee County
County Population: 28,198, +3.1% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: —2.3%
Per Capita Income: $26,472

Hardee County has a new hospital, the $31.5-million Florida Hospital Wauchula. The 25-bed, 50,000-sq.-ft. facility opened in December. The hospital features an emergency department with two trauma rooms and two pediatric rooms as well as onsite labs and radiology and mammography units.

Hendry County
County Population:40,612, +7.6% vs. 2013
5-Year Change in Wages / Salaries: —5.3%
Per Capita Income: $29,535

A former sugar cane refinery in Hendry County will become part of an aluminum recycling and manufacturing facility operated by Atio USA. When it opens later this year, the facility will create 39 jobs, paying an average of more than $42,000 a year. FP&L’s proposed Hendry County solar plant near LaBelle, is expected to generate enough power for 15,000 homes.

Tags: Southwest, Economic Yearbook

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