Economic Yearbook 2008
TREASURE COAST: Regional Mindset
Say this for the real estate market collapse. It crystallizes the need to diversify the Treasure Coast’s economy. “The issue for Indian River County is we need to create a more stable job base,” says William J. Penney, executive vice president and chief lending officer for Vero Beach-based Marine Bank & Trust. The same holds true throughout the Treasure Coast.
|See population, income and job statistics from this region.
Fortunately, the knowledge-based sector is growing in Port St. Lucie. The latest components are a Florida unit of Oregon Health and Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and biotech entrepreneur Alfred E. Mann’s 22-acre project that will have space for medical, corporate and research offices and retail. Both are close to and follow the landmark relocation of California-based Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies to land donated by developer Core Communities at its Tradition project.
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“It made a great deal of sense once Scripps went into Palm Beach,” says Core President Pete Hegener of the LaJolla-based Scripps’ Jupiter campus, “to be part of a cluster that would run all the way from Miami to Jacksonville.”
Hegener’s regional mindset delights Michael Busha, executive director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, who says the top need for the area is to join forces with Southeast Florida to become the sixth-largest metro nationally with the clout to attract funding for infrastructure and other needs. Says Busha, “We’re growing together as one metro area whether we like it or not.”
A new economy brings new requirements. St. Lucie County Economic Development Council President Larry Pelton says the region’s education players will rise to meet the new economy’s needs: “We have to upgrade our education system to be consistent.”
Arts element (Stuart)
» John Loesser has been executive director of the 500-seat Lyric Theatre for the last nine years. A circa 1926 theater owned by a non-profit, it holds 300 events a year, brings in $3 million in ticket sales and is an anchor of downtown life. Visiting acts have included Art Garfunkel, Jackie Mason, Manhattan Transfer and the 5 Browns along with Broadway classics, dance companies and chamber musicians. "Why can't you make a 500-seat theater into a baby performing arts center? That really changed the dynamic." [Photo: Brian Smith]
Booming St. Lucie has gotten all the ink nationally for rapid growth, but of the four Treasure Coast counties, only smaller Indian River County posted gains above the state’s average annual growth of 2.07% over the past five years — albeit from a smaller base. Down the road, Indian River’s population, according to University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, could reach 150,000 in two years and grow to 166,800 by 2015. Martin County over the same span is on track to reach 154,100 and 167,000 residents while St. Lucie is expected to hit 298,800 in 2010 and 346,200 in 2015. Okeechobee is secure as the smallest county in the region with a projected population of 40,300 in two years and 42,300 by 2015.