Tallahassee’s economic growth outpacing other Florida cities

From the Tallahassee Democrat

The Tallahassee Metropolitan Statistical Area has the fastest growing economy per capita for any Florida city, officials said Wednesday during the City Commission retreat.

Commissioners praised the 3.8 percent economic uptick driven by 95 proposed or under-construction developments in the pipeline within the city limits, and a few dozen in outlying Leon County. Economic development officials forecast 6,300 jobs created and more than $253.6 million in wages spurred by six of the 90-some projects.

Tallahassee’s economic growth rate outpaced the state’s overall growth rate of 0.6 percent. Nearly every segment within the city, with the exception of the southwest, is peppered with projects and proposals.

The private sector, due to milestone infrastructure efforts, is pushing the economic wave, said Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“These are a result of the kind of development and redevelopment we’ve seen throughout our city,” said Gillum, who is running for governor. “A lot of things had to co-conspire to make it possible to allow us to be one of the leading economies in the state of Florida and, in fact, in the nation per capita.”

Development projects, from student housing, hotels, assisted living facilities, office space and mixed-use developments are coming in large numbers, said Wayne Tedder, assistant city manager, who oversees the city’s growth management department.

Hotspots include the Gaines Street corridor, downtown and northeast Tallahassee with the Canopy at Welaunee, a multi-year, mixed-use community expected to be the largest suburban development and the future of large-scale growth in Tallahassee.

City and economic development officials examined Tallahassee’s gross domestic product, the prime indicator of a community’s economic health. It includes four main areas: consumption of goods and services, government expenses benefiting a community and investment, such as development projects, and the net export of products coming out of the region.

“As we look ahead to what we can do to shape the economic environment in our community, anything that touches these four quadrants are things we need to keep our hands on,” Tedder said.

Businesses and the private sector are responding and building around major government-led projects and initiatives.

Sue Dick, president and CEO of the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, said more local businesses are hiring again. Those sectors include professional services, engineering, healthcare and hospitality.

For two years, many businesses were holding steady, cautiously eyeing the economy before making major moves.

“I think it’s a message that Tallahassee and region are the right markets for businesses and industries to be looking at for expansion,” Dick said.

Officials touted the good news, but Commissioner Gil Ziffer, who is running for mayor, also urged more focus on affordable housing options other than student housing.

The city retreat comes on the heels of an encouraging statewide economic forecast for 2018 by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which announced a projected a $1 trillion economy by the end of the year. It estimates 180,000 jobs will be created statewide in 2018.

Contact TaMaryn Waters at tlwaters@tallahassee.com or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.