Leon County needs thousands more jobs to stay competitive, according to economic forecast

From the Tallahassee Democrat

An economic forecast for Leon County shows more than 15,000 jobs are needed by 2030 in order for the capital city to be competitive in the future.

Terrie Ard, who chairs the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, said the organization has for three years tracked the number of jobs needed and what’s been added. She noted several factors, including residents relocating to Tallahassee and workforce programs launched by local universities, that are designed to create more opportunities to generate jobs.

“I think we’re making good progress, but good is not great,” Ard said. “We need to do even more. I like to think about that 15,000 (number) and say we need about eight more Amazons.”

Amazon is slated to generate approximately 1,000 new jobs with its robotic fulfillment center that’s slated to open later this year. The $200 million facility is the largest private sector investment in Tallahassee’s history.

Ard said it’s not just about creating jobs but more about creating jobs for the future. In addition, she referenced a color-coded community scorecard created by the Chamber that shows year-over-year economic indicators, including poverty, third-grade reading scores, kindergarten readiness and total violent crime index. Green indicators show favorable changes or increases while red represents areas in need of improvement.

The January scorecard shows three red areas: kindergarten readiness, high school graduation rate and total crime index.

Ard said more attention and discussion needs to be put on the “red” economic indicators.

“We’re a glass half full community and people and that’s wonderful. The optimism, the positivity, the look to the future and being excited about it,” Ard said. “But what we don’t do enough of is talking about the red.

“We have the lowest growth rate of any other county in Florida. That’s not okay. We have at one of our Title I elementary schools right now today, 48 children that are homeless. That is not okay. Those are the things that keep me up at night. We’re not talking enough about the red and how we truly get to the root cause and start to solve it.”

Statewide forecast shows strong job growth, population increases

Florida Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mark Wilson said if Florida was a country, the state would have the 16th largest economy in the world. By 2030, the state is estimated to have 2.8 million more residents by 2030.

Florida has a gross domestic product or GDP of $1.4 trillion. The state Chamber’s Florida Blueprint 203, the goal is to rank with the 10th highest GDP worldwide.

At the rate Florida’s economy is growing, Wilson said the state is on track to out pace Mexico’s economy. That, he said, should be part of the economic conversations taking place in Leon County when planning for future workforce growth.

He also encouraged business leaders and owners in the audience to refine resources and discussions surrounding economic development for Leon County — home to 32304, the poorest zip code in the state.

“I’m hoping that the city, the county, the business community, the school board, can we think about,” Wow, if Florida was a country, we’d be bigger than Mexico next year?’,” Wilson said. “Maybe we should think globally instead of how do we compete with Georgia? Or how do we compete with the city next door?”

Top economic predictions for 2023

  • 2023 will be another year of strong job growth – 250,000+ new Jobs in 2023
  • Population growth will remain strong – approximately 350,000 new residents
  • Workforce availability and participation rate will continue to remain a concern – unemployment rate will continue to be below national average of 3.5% (Florida currently at 2.7%)
  • Stronger GDP growth for Florida’s economy
  • Inflation will be a significant concern for consumers and businesses
  • Transactions of single-family homes will return to pre-pandemic levels, but without much erosion in prices – approximately 80,000-85,000 single family housing starts
  • Florida will continue to lead income migration – latest IRS data shows $23.7B in net annual income migration, with that number growing in 2023