Southwest Florida’s economy is vibrant and growing. The region’s economic growth will help our communities weather the inevitable downturns in national economic cycles and provide opportunities for new prosperity to our residents. A hallmark of this growth is its diversification. In FGCU’s most recent Indus-try Diversification analysis, the Cape Coral-Fort Myers MSA ranked 5th in the State of Florida underpinned by its emerging manufacturing sector.
Traditionally, the contribution of the manu-facturing sector is measured through an examination of NAICS codes. Manufacturing statistics are based on information collected at the “establishment”—or plant—level, as opposed to the “firm” level. That means numerous manufacturing-related activities, such as parts assembly, R&D centers and warehouse and distribution centers, are not included within the NAICS codes for manufacturing (31-33). For Lee County, these ancillary businesses double the base number of 6,500 direct jobs attributable to the manufacturing cluster bringing the total jobs of this cluster to 12,500 jobs with revenues of $6.5 billion.
Our abundance of natural resources, access to large markets to the east and north of the region and overall regional integration contribute to a dynamic manufacturing sector. This sector is innovative and entrepreneurial as we have seen for example in medical device, maritime and construction related manufacturing. These sectors are emerging regionally, developing clusters and fostering supply chain growth. This growth continues to correct inefficiencies in our market.
For example, we have long paid a premium for deadheading imports bound for Southwest Florida. A key benefit of a more robust manufacturing sector will be more out-bound activity, bringing costs down in our trucking, rail and airport cargo related activities.
While we have benefited by the innovation seen in the larger manufacturing sector, educational partners are also responding to this growth with efforts to add new degree and certificate programs at our area’s colleges and universities. FGCU will provide a new degree in Supply Chain Management beginning in September. This is just one of the many programs they are expanding or adding in response to increasing economic diversity. FSW continues to aggressively pursue state training dollars to offer specialized workforce training programs. CareerSource is a state leader in advocating for certification programs and is a key partner in our efforts to recruit and expand all businesses.
Partners such as the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s Future Makers Coalition are working with industry executives to identify new ways to support workforce and economic growth. The Lee County School Board, our most important generator of a future workforce, continues to adapt and respond to a fast changing economy. All of these efforts are essential to our continued economic success.
Southwest Florida and Lee County especially are an exciting place to be. Our economy is growing, our future is bright and as we move closer to a full time population of 1 million people in Lee County and 2 million in the region, manufacturing and other sectors that support it such as transportation, distribution and training, among others, will continue to grow and thrive here. As always, the Lee County Economic Development Office salutes these businesses, their employees and professional associations such as the Southwest Regional Manufacturers Association for the outstanding job they are doing to sustain our growth and inspire our future.
John Talmage, Director, Lee County Economic Development Office, has spent more than 30 years working in local economic and community development, both for municipal governments and national re-search organizations. To contact him, email JTalmage@leegov.