Economic Dynamo Ready for Business

Florida’s rebounding economy places the state in a great position to lure businesses seeking the most optimal climate to set up shop, according to Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Panuccio was one of the many state and regional officials and business leaders meeting to address Northwest Florida’s economic affairs during the 2nd Annual Emerald Coast Transportation Symposium this week in Pensacola Beach.

As a whole, Florida’s recovery is nothing short of a miracle. During the height of the recession the state’s unemployment rate rose to 11.4 percent. Today, we’re down to 6.2 percent. More than 800,000 private-sector jobs were lost but more than 600,000 of those have been reclaimed in the last few years. Tourism, which took a hard hit with the double whammy of recession and the BP oil spill, has come back fighting, and Panuccio said some 100 million tourists are expected to visit us this year. That’s not only significant, it’s historic. That’s 1.7 million people coming here each day.

“That’s the first time we’ve ever even approached that number,” he said. “The economic impact is over $80 billion.”

For those who can’t quite wrap their mind around such a number, Panuccio described it as the entire population of Idaho packing up and coming to Florida every day.

“So the tourism numbers are coming back is a very good thing,” he said.

Job demand has also increased. Before the recession, there were 275,000 unique openings in our state. That fell to 159,000 job openings at the height of the recession.

“We’re now back to the pre-recession numbers; in fact, three months ago we said we  were over 280,000 unique job openings. That was an all-time record for this state,” he said. “So employers are starting to gain confidence again and expand their businesses and put the job openings out there.”

So on every one of those measures we’re seeing an economy that has turned around significantly, he said.

“We went from a state that was leading the recession in terms of the downward spiral, to now the state in a handful of states that is leading the recovery in the nation,” Panuccio said.

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