Southwest Florida's economic forecast for 2023
by Art Levy
Updated 4 months ago
Perspectives on the Year Ahead
Founder/CEO, PostcardMania (marketing), Clearwater
- INFLATION: “PostcardMania has encountered and overcome many challenges in the past, and I feel 2023 will be no different. Even amidst inflation, where we have had to adjust our pricing and some business dealings due to the cost of essential materials, we are still growing.”
- HIRING OR FIRING? “Next year, we expect to hire more talent, sell more postcards and develop an even sharper focus on helping small businesses not only just survive the economic downturn, but also thrive no matter what the world may throw at them. We will also continue to deliver the important message to our clients that marketing is crucial to their growth and that we will be there for them.”
President/CEO, London Bay (developer), Naples
- HIRING OR FIRING? “London Bay has been continually growing over the past several years, and we expect that trend to continue into 2023. We are currently hiring for numerous positions throughout the company and face the same challenges as many others in our community of attracting talent who can afford to live in this area. We focus on company culture and how we can be the employer of choice.”
- INFLATION: “Inflation is expected to peak in 2023, which will then allow for stabilization of the economy. Although the construction environment has been challenging from a supply chain and increased cost of goods perspective, we are very fortunate that most buyers in the luxury market are cash buyers whose buying power is not impacted by increasing interest rates and who recognize that there is still great value in this highly desirable market.”
- BUILDING CODES: “Hurricane Ian showed us that the updated building codes and FEMA flood elevations make sense. We have a long recovery ahead of us, but I feel confident that Southwest Florida will remain a sought-after market.”
Chief Marketing Officer, Squaremouth (travel insurance), St. Petersburg
- GROWTH: “While the initial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our industry was dire, it ultimately led to exponential growth due to exposure, demand and requirements to travel with insurance. By pivoting business objectives, our post-pandemic year-over-year growth has exceeded 82%. Coupled with a new customer base, we see opportunities in several sectors to continue this momentum. Air travel has struggled to meet consumer demand. Likewise, we are anticipating the return of cruising to the masses. Lastly, we’ve seen a new demographic value travel insurance due to rising travel prices driven by inflation and demand.”
- HIRING OR FIRING? “In order to meet consumer demand, we continue to invest in our team. We were dedicated to retaining our full staff throughout the pandemic and are now adding in a number of key departments. By shifting to a remote environment and offering competitive benefits, we have been able to tap into a much larger talent pool.”
Economic Development Opportunities in 2023 …
CRAIG J . RICHARD
President/CEO, Tampa Bay Economic Development Council
“In 2023, we’ll continue to see strong activity in the financial services, headquarters and IT sectors. With the evolving supply chain, we expect more manufacturing and distribution investments. And stronger foreign direct investment activity means we have an opportunity to position Tampa Bay as a global business destination. Talent attraction and retention remains a top priority. A new Make It Tampa Bay website and digital campaign will help attract the talent our local employers need. We’re working with our education partners to ensure we retain new graduates. We’re also promoting accessible certificate and training programs among our existing workforce that can lead to an in-demand, high-paying job. Tampa Bay has experienced tremendous growth over the last couple of years. It’s important that this economic prosperity reaches all corners of our community. Our place-making strategy works to address this challenge by bringing catalytic projects and business investment to underserved areas.”
Director, Charlotte County Economic Development
“Hurricane Ian made Charlotte County its target in September. The Category 4 storm caused significant damage, but we were spared the devastating storm surge our southern neighbors experienced. Charlotte County was bent, but not broken. Even with all the destruction, debris and tragedy, Charlotte County is happy to announce Sunseeker Resort, a $600-million investment, will open September 2023. FedEx’s 250,000-sq.-ft. distribution facility opened in late 2022, and Equus Capital Partners is moving forward on a 378,000-sq.-ft. spec distribution building. For the foreseeable future, our economic development team will be in recovery mode ensuring our business community and their employees obtain the attention and assistance they need to recover after the storm, but expect our economic development efforts to begin again in 2023.”
President/CEO, Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp.
“In the period from 2009 to the end of September 2022, the Bradenton Area EDC and its partners have assisted more than 189 businesses with expansions and relocations. These companies are projected to deliver more than 8,500 jobs and over $2 billion in wages from direct and indirect jobs through 2027. Equally important, these businesses plan to invest more than $1.3 billion in capital investment. We believe that in 2023, we will be able to maintain that momentum because the Bradenton area offers a combination of assets the businesses we target are seeking. I’m excited about the relocation prospects we are generating through digital marketing campaigns launched in 2022. Sectors with particular promise in the coming year include aviation, advanced manufacturing and corporate headquarters.”
President/CEO, Pasco EDC
“2023 will see increased emphasis on entrepreneurial programs as a national downturn in the economy or a recession will lead to more individuals seeking to start companies. The Pasco EDC SMARTstart Program focuses on providing startups and small businesses with education, affordable workspace, collaboration, funding and guidance. By providing access to those resources, entrepreneurs have the opportunity to build a strong foundation for their ideas and fine-tune them before launch. We will also continue to focus on recruiting new business, and one of the best ways to do that is to take care of our current businesses. Focusing on developing the talent pipeline to meet our growing company needs continues to be crucial. Moffitt Cancer Center’s announcement of a new 775-acre campus at Angeline has accelerated efforts to improve Pasco’s talent pipeline by not only growing its own workforce, but also through talent attraction.”
MAJOR DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENTS
- TAMPA EDITION: Touted as Tampa’s first five-star hotel, the Tampa Edition has opened in downtown’s $3.5-billion Water Street Tampa development. The 26-story, 172-room hotel, managed by Marriott, includes five restaurants led by John Fraser, a Michelin-starred chef based in New York.
- GAS WORX: In Ybor City, about two miles from Water Street in Tampa, planning is underway on the Gas Worx, a 40-acre development with 5,000 homes, 500,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of retail space. The developers are Darryl Shaw, a Tampa real estate investor, and Kettler, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate firm.
- MIDTOWN TAMPA: Development continues on the Bromley Cos.’ Midtown Tampa project. A recent addition: A new headquarters for staffing firm Kforce, which moved to Midtown in 2022 after selling its former office building in Ybor City to developer Darryl Shaw for $24 million.
- 400 CENTRAL: The 46-story 400 Central Avenue project in downtown St. Petersburg has started its foundation work. The 515-foot tower, with 301 condominium apartments, will become St. Petersburg’s tallest building.
- THE NOLEN: Construction is underway on the Nolen, a 23-story condominium in downtown St. Petersburg. The building will have 31 condominium units and should be completed by 2024.
- EVO: The 23-story Evo apartment building in downtown St. Petersburg is expected to open this year. The tower will have 220 apartments and 13,000 square feet of retail.
- FORMER NEWSPAPER PROPERTY: Lakeland’s Planning and Zoning Board approved the rezoning of a former Lakeland Ledger newspaper property that will allow the 17-acre tract to be used for a variety of commercial, office and residential uses.
- PUBLIC PARK: Downtown Lakeland’s new $110-million Bonnet Springs Park opened in late 2022 with a children’s museum, an events center, a nature center, a botanical garden and walking and bike trails.
- CONDOS: Downtown Sarasota projects underway include One Park, a 123-unit, 18-story condominium tower; Collage on 5th, a five-story boutique condo with seven units; Villa Ballada, a 22-unit, five-story condo; the Edge, a 27- unit, 10-story condo; the DeMarcay, an 18-story tower with 30 condo apartments; and Bayso, an 18-story condo tower with 149 units.
- REDEVELOPMENT: Clearwater’s $84-million redevelopment of its downtown is scheduled to be completed by this summer. The work includes a $15-million amphitheater, the focal point of a remodeled Coachman Park.
In Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Sarasota counties — the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ian — much of 2023’s development focus will be on rebuilding the infrastructure, homes and businesses damaged by the storm’s surge and winds and hardening other structures to contend with the next big storm.
“Despite bearing the brunt of Hurricane Ian, what remains is an incredible sense of community united to rebuild the region,” says David Druey, Centennial Bank’s regional president of Florida, which includes offices in Marco Island, Naples, Fort Myers and Sarasota.
“This silver lining will provide countless new jobs to the region as it recovers, rebuilds and benefits from investors drawn to secure value-add opportunities for development. We foresee a stabilization that will benefit the long-term growth in Southwest Florida, which is a highly valued region to live.”
- Crystal River is using a $200,000 state grant to study the flooding risks associated with hurricanes and other severe storms. The study will include plans on what the city could do to protect itself from rising water.
- Punta Gorda Airport has opened its PGD Air Center, a facility with office, meeting and event space, a pilot’s lounge and a ramp for aircraft parking.
- The Collier County Planning Commission has approved a 2,000-home community east of the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary. Proposed by Barron Collier Cos., the 680-acre community, to be called Brightshore, would include 120,000 square feet of commercial space. The project still needs approval from the county commission.
- A retail and condominium development is planned near Naples’ Fifth Avenue South business district. The three-story building, named 331 of Naples, will have retail and 12 condo units.
- The Naples City Council is considering changes to the city’s land development code. Proposed changes include requiring more landscaping and reducing the percentage of a lot that can be built on.
- DeSoto County received a $1-million federal grant to fund services for the county’s homeless. The 95th annual Arcadia All-Florida Championship Rodeo is set to return March 9-12. The rodeo attracts about 20,000 people each year.
- Moore Haven received $1 million in state funds to improve the city’s downtown district, an effort to attract development and jobs to the city of 1,700. Moore Haven will use the money to complete road and stormwater improvements to guard against flooding and prevent pollutants from draining into the Caloosahatchee River Basin Estuary.
- Denise Grimsley is the new president and CEO of the Development Group in Wauchula. She had served in the Florida House and Senate.
- The Hendry County Economic Development Council has hired VisionFirst Advisors to evaluate and offer recommendations to support the ongoing expansion of Airglades International Airport in Clewiston.
- Paul Hasenmeier is Hernando County’s new fire chief and director of public safety. He replaced Scott Hechler, who retired after serving as chief for eight years.
- The Highlands County School District has received $66,000 in state funds to upgrade its agriculture teaching programs. State money also went to school districts in Hardee County ($38,839 for automotive maintenance and repair programs); Hernando County ($67,000 for heating and air conditioning, game design and animation programs); and DeSoto County ($64,242 for agriculture/ technology programs).
- City Furniture opened a 1.3 million-sq.- ft. showroom, featuring a cafe and wine bar and warehouse in Plant City. The LEED-desgined facilty includes a refueling station for delivery trucks that run on compressed natural gas. The complex is one of the largest of its kind in the nation.
- The Lee County Homeless Coalition found 560 homeless people during its 2022 census, an increase over 394 in 2021. Among the 560 were 49 families with 86 children.
- Despite losing one of its four support legs during Hurricane Ian, the 138-year-old Sanibel Lighthouse remained standing amid the storm surge and 155-mph winds. The Florida Lighthouse Association has pledged $60,000 toward fixing it as well as other lighthouse structures on Boca Grande.
- Construction is underway on a 502-unit apartment complex in Lakewood Ranch. To be called Renata, the complex includes 13 four-story buildings.
- Manatee County has ended its 10-year-old red-light camera program after county commissioners questioned the program’s effectiveness at preventing vehicle crashes.
- A 563,451-sq.-ft. industrial park to be called Manatee County Logistics Center is under construction in Bradenton.
- A new law bans retailers from selling rabbits in the county. Supporters of the ban said many rabbits purchased for Easter are abandoned when buyers no longer want to take care of them.
- Kenny Wilson, a Jabil executive vice president, will become the St. Petersburg-based company’s CEO in May as longtime CEO Mark Mondello steps down. Mondello, Jabil’s CEO since 2013, will stay on with the firm as executive chairman. Wilson has been with the company for 22 years.
- The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority’s $43.9-million SunRunner rapid-transit bus line has started operation, linking downtown St. Petersburg to Pinellas County beaches 10 miles away.
- A Polk County Public Schools long-range plan calls for the construction of six or more schools by 2031, including at least three elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school.
- Assure Infusions started construction on a 60,000-sq.-ft. automated pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Bartow. Assure makes IV fluid products.
- Work is underway on a $6-million Polk Museum of Art expansion at Florida Southern College.
- Venice-based window and door maker PGT Innovations has purchased Utah-based Martin Door Holdings, a garage door manufacturer, for $185 million.
- The Girl Scouts of West Central Florida received a $2-million cut of philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s $84.5-million donation to Girl Scout chapters across the country. Scott also gave $6 million to the Pinellas County Urban League, the largest donation in the Pinellas group’s history.