U.S. consumers are the most confident since 2000, and the confidence extends to the business sector – especially in flourishing places like Nassau County.
And it’s an unbridled confidence here. Commercial and industrial expansion is happening as if on steroids, amid an massive influx of people to work in the new industries, to shop at the new stores, to eat at the new restaurants.
Laura DiBella revels in the activity. She likes winning in her role as executive director of the Nassau County Economic Development Board. The board’s mission is to spearhead our local economy in many ways.
Meanwhile, the business confidence here is palpable. It is “evidenced by the expansion activity,” she says. “From healthcare to manufacturing to everything else. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just look around.”
DiBella’s job is to make Nassau County appealing – to keep existing businesses here and to attract new ones. To stay ahead, her office recently initiated a workforce study. The study aimed to identify workforce needs of companies already here, and those looking to move here.
The survey, conducted by an outside firm, is a proactive measure “to get ahead and stay ahead,” she says. After all, the location and land availability are no longer the overwhelming attractions, because we are well-endowed in both areas. “The land is no longer the competitive tool,” she says. “It’s the talent.”
Indeed, the labor market is tight here, like it is in many places. A sub-4.00% national unemployment rate reflects this. Cultivating the labor market is a top priority for DiBella’s office. The workforce report sheds light on this, making these main points:
1-Growth will continue because of Nassau County’s proximity to the Jacksonville metropolitan area and migration of residents to Northeast Florida.
2-The unemployment rate for Nassau County was a remarkable 3.4% in January.
3-Over the next 10 years, the fastest growing profession in Nassau County is expected to be Healthcare Support Occupations.
4-Nassau County has experienced a 12 percent growth in population since the 2010 Census; amid a growing metropolitan region, that number should continue to rise.
5-Nassau County has a labor participation rate slightly lower than the state and national average at 56 percent (because of so many retirees here); when looking at the population between the ages of 20-64, however, that jumps to 72 percent.
In addition, there are many other employment issues raised in the exhaustive report. DiBella’s office will dissect the report and its recommendations. The report is impressive.
To complement her efforts, there is an existing industry here that continues to thrive, and prosper. It’s tourism. And it’s a function of economic development.
Tourism continues to turn up new leads. They are people who come here for vacations, festivals, conferences. “We market to them from every angle possible,” DiBella says.
(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor and a chartered retirement planning counselor for a regional U.S. firm who lives on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His business columns regularly appear in several newspapers in North Florida and on his website SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book of his favorite columns from the last 20 years, “All About Money.” The book is available in local stores and on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)