If Greater Naples is to continue to evolve as both a lifestyle destination and a thriving, diverse economic region, a balance must be struck between the desire to preserve the qualities that draw residents and visitors and the strategies and tactics that will enhance the ability of local economic developers and other professionals to retain, expand, attract, and grow quality jobs in Collier County. In fact, the synergy between these two missions can ultimately be profound and complimentary.” –Opportunity Naples Competitive Assessment (March 11, 2014, page 1).
This isn’t our first rodeo and by that I mean this community has worked for decades to diversify the economy. This community will have to focus on that forever in hopes of creating a balanced economy which is sustainable over time. We are neither balanced nor sustainable today.
90 percent of the Collier County Government Budget is based upon RESIDENTIAL TAXES. The only hope of keeping the taxes on our homes from rising is adding other taxable features to this economy.
“Only three sectors – agriculture, mining and accommodation and food services – are projected to have enough Collier County residents aged 24 to 44 to replace those workers aged 45 and over as they retire. The remaining sectors are projected to have shortages, with most to a greater extent than the national projected shortages.”–www.opportunitynaples.com/documents.
We are importing AND exporting our workforce now. The only hope of keeping existing businesses and recruiting new is to grow, educate, employ and retain our own workforce.
“Likewise, there will be an occupational shortage in Collier County if qualified workers aged 24 to 44 are not recruited to the area to replace retirees. Gaps are projected in all but five Collier occupational categories. Public input regarding skills gaps included concern over workers leaving the Greater Naples area due to the seasonality or unavailability of full-time employment. The lack of a diversity of employment for recent college graduates and “trailing spouses” of healthcare professionals was also cited as a concern.”
We have identified a labor shortage which extends into the future and which can only be mitigated by closing skill gaps, focusing our resources on the issue and fostering the nascent entrepreneurial cluster already growing here, and QUICKLY. The only hope of keeping employers in business is growing a talent pipeline.
“A reoccurring concern that appeared throughout the Opportunity Naples public input was the area’s high cost of living and lack of quality affordable housing options for middle income families or young professionals. In addition to higher-than-average home prices, Collier County had the highest average apartment rents of all the comparison communities.”
The City of Naples population at just over 19,000 is the lowest its been in a decade. Young people can’t afford to live there and those who can often live in other locations around the country as well. The only hope of keeping a city and an economy alive is to see young professionals, attracted to a quality of place, who will either come from somewhere else or stay planted if they have grown here – and build their businesses and their families here.
“In 2012, nearly one in four children in Collier County was living in poverty. Collier County had the highest child poverty rate of all the comparison communities, with the exception of Florida.
Between 2007 and 2012, the poverty rate increased by 5.5 percent points in Collier County and by 0.6 percentage points in the City of Naples.
Collier County’s 2012 poverty rate of 15.4 percent was higher than the comparison counties, but less than Florida or the U.S. The data further illustrates the income inequality within Collier County.”
While we are an affluent community–more so than most around the world – we also have great poverty. A difference between us and many other centers of wealth is that we have the money, the resolve and the leadership to eradicate poverty. The only hope of improving is to admit and address our weaknesses; first taking care of our own and second demonstrating a standard of living – a quality of place (Think Blue Zone) to others who will want to move here and add to our prosperity.
It matters because we want and expect and work for a quality of place unlike any other where residential taxes are balanced by a diversity of industries, where workforce grows and a talent pipeline is developed which allows our children to acquire world class skills to start and grow their own businesses; where young people live by the thousands because they can afford to due in part to available high skill, high wage jobs; and where we have improved the quality of life in every way to the extent that the needs of our communities are met and we stand as an example to the world.
Opportunity matters. Seize it!