The signs are everywhere! They’ve been there since 2009, pointing to an economic turnaround in Southwest Florida. But the signs are flashing brighter and more frequently now on a slow, bumpy road toward recovery.
Tourism is strong. The real estate market is on the mend. Retail and restaurant sales are on the rise. Unemployment is falling. Layoffs have slowed and new businesses are sprouting up, filling empty storefronts. There is more traffic on the roads. Hotels and restaurants are full. All which is are good sign.
The winter season that’s fading is one of the best on record in Southwest Florida. In Lee County, visitation rose and so did tourism spending and the outlook for summer is good, with hotel bookings far ahead of last year.
The Southwest region of Florida which includes Cape Coral has seen more companies expanding or looking to relocate to the area including a recent major announcement from Hertz whom will be moving to the area and more people are returning to work, following a state trend. The area is also seeing other large national corporations including Coca Cola and Alta Resources among others. Lee County’s jobless rate fell below 9 percent in March, while Collier’s dropped to less than 8 percent, in part fueled by the uptick in tourism this winter.
When it comes to this recovery, it seems nothing about it has been fast, leading some economists to describe it as a long, hard “slog.” The “Great Recession,” triggered by a financial meltdown, technically ended in June 2009, 18 months after it started, according to The National Bureau of Economic Research. A full recovery may still be three to five years away, experts say.