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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 1 year ago

Economy looks good - mostly

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76% say the economy should continue to improve next year.

Based on data alone, the economy in Lee County is inching upward, according to the new Business Climate Survey report from the Regional Economic Research Institute at Florida Gulf Coast University in partnership with the Horizon Council.

In the most recent quarter, for starters, the overall economic index was 68 out of 100 — up one point from the previous quarter and five points from the same time frame in 2016. The survey is based on responses from senior executives and business owners in Lee County.

Other data nuggets include:
• Nearly six out of 10 executives, 59%, say economic conditions have improved over the past year;
• More than three-fourths, 76%, expect the economy to improve over the next year; and
• More than two-thirds, 68%, of companies expect to increase investment next year — against just 2% that expect to reduce investment levels.

But while the data is nice, some of the comments paint a different picture. The question, “what is missing or what could be done better in terms of promoting the success of young, startup companies in the region?” generated some pointed comments, for example. A sampling of the answers includes:

• “I wish our local economic development agencies promoted local business in general, not just startups or big companies. I've never had any help from economic development during the course of my 25-year business history, despite the fact that I have created many jobs and a positive economic impact to the community.”
• “Make this city encouraging to new businesses instead of chasing them away. Help them grow rather than impose ridiculous rules and stipulations that keep them away.
• “Less red tape.”

In other comments, and in some data, a truism emerged: the influx of seniors and baby boomers will continue to present both business opportunities — and challenges. For instance, 72% of respondents say health care and social assistance is most likely to create new companies over the next five years in Southwest Florida.

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