Healthy economic prognosis
by Janet Ware
Updated 7 yearss ago
Port St. Lucie/St. Lucie County
Health Care: There's renewed optimism in the county: Unemployment rates are down significantly, sales of new homes are strong and building permit revenue is the highest in five years. Fueling the recovery, says Economic Development Council of St. Lucie County President Pete Tesch, is a growing health care sector, led by Martin Health System, which opened Tradition Medical Center in December 2013. "They are the leaders in job creation," he says, "and a catalyst for economic development." Proximity to a new hospital was among reasons noted by the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs for locating its newest nursing home for veterans in St. Lucie County. Construction on the 120-bed facility will begin later this year.
Resort Zoning: In January, the St. Lucie County Commission gave initial approval to commercial resort zoning, opening the door to resort construction countywide and, in particular, to a condo/hotel project on North Hutchinson Island that's been on hold since 2004.
Person to Watch
Greg Oravec: Described by colleagues as "visible, vocal and very energetic," Oravec was elected mayor of Port St. Lucie in November. The native Floridian and former Port St. Lucie city manager is working with new county administrator Howard Tipton, the St. Lucie EDC and others to formulate strategies for boosting the local economy and creating jobs.
Business to Watch
Pharus Group: The Port St. Lucie-based advisory firm provides support in operational services, sales and marketing, financial management and other areas vital to small and midsized businesses — what president and founder Chris Morhardt calls "the business of business." In February, the firm underwent its second expansion in two years, doubling in size to accommodate growth and provide room for future expansion.
Stuart/ Martin County
Marine Manufacturing: "The marine industry, specifically manufacturing, is a vital part of Martin County's economy," says Business Development Board of Martin County Executive Director Tim Dougher, who last summer welcomed Ocean Master Marine to a new headquarters and manufacturing facility in Stuart. The company purchased an existing 15,000-sq.-ft. building near I-95 and State Road 76 that it plans to expand to accommodate additional product lines and approximately two dozen new employees.
Shrimp Farm: In nearby Indiantown, construction is under way on Fresh Shrimp USA, a shrimp farm that, when fully operational in 2016, will employ 60 and produce an estimated 100,000 pounds of organic shrimp in the first year. In addition to shrimp production, the firm plans to sell fresh shrimp to the public from its on-site retail outlet.
Commerce Park: Also coming to Indiantown in 2015: Florida Commerce Park. A recently developed project of Miami-based Skyfarm Strategic Capital, the inland 100-acre development off State Road 710 has 1.3 million buildable square feet, the largest industrial development ever planned in Martin County.
Person to Watch
Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch: The town commissioner and former mayor of Sewall's Point is passionate about protecting Florida's waterways and, in particular, the Indian River Lagoon and St. Lucie River. Through her blog (jacquithurlowlippisch. Com), Thurlow-Lippisch tracks algae growth and toxic plumes, shares information about projects and pending legislation impacting these waterways and provides evidence of environmental damage through aerial photographs she takes herself from a plane piloted by her husband.
Business to Watch
PAC Seating Systems: The Palm City manufacturer of private and business jet seating products has been selected by GDC Technics in San Antonio to provide all the seating products for two Boeing 787 VIP planes and one narrow Boeing Business Jet. PAC was named 2014 Manufacturer of the Year by the South Florida Manufacturing Association.
County Population: 156,161 , up 6.6% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 5.3%
Per capita income: $57,323
Vero Beach/ Indian River County
Industry Targeting: "We're looking to better position ourselves for business development," says Helene Caseltine, economic development director at the Indian River Chamber of Commerce. One key strategy: Play to county strengths by targeting three industries — manufacturing, life sciences/R&D and warehousing/distribution. Being within three hours of 90% of Florida's population, she adds, "we're especially well-suited for regional distribution."
New Developments: In Fellsmere, Florida Organic Aquaculture, the climate-controlled shrimp production/research facility that opened last summer, continues to expand. A second pod is under construction; six more are planned within three years. A city council decision to change the land-use designation for the newly annexed 8,800-acre Corrigan Ranch property from agricultural to a combination of low-density, mixed-use and industrial is opening new development possibilities.
Tourism: Hotels have been reporting strong occupancy rates throughout the year. A new Hampton Inn in Vero Beach began booking rooms two months ahead of its March opening, and nearby beachside retail space is almost fully occupied.
Person to Watch
Jason Nunemaker: The city manager of Fellsmere since 2005, Nunemaker has helped arrange two major annexations of agricultural land — 18,000 acres in 2007 and another 8,800 in 2014. The first caused concerns among many residents who worried that their town would lose its character to urban sprawl. But Nunemaker proved to be as determined to preserve Fellsmere's small-town charm as they were; consequently, the second annexation met with almost no opposition.
Business to Watch
Azzly: Coletta Dorado founded Azzly in 2009 to create software for the electronic medical records and practice management industry. Azzly's combination of clinical and business functions allows physicians and other practitioners to perform many practice management functions with a single product rather than multiple software programs. Based in Vero Beach, Azzly was named one of 50 Florida Companies to Watch in 2014 by GrowFL, an economic gardening program.
County Population: 146,475 , up 5.9% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 6.0%
Per capita income: $56,304
Power Plant: Officials here are waiting to learn whether Florida Power & Light will build a natural gas power plant on 2,800 acres in northeastern Okeechobee. If approved, the $1.2-billion Okeechobee Clean Energy Center will generate an estimated 300 construction jobs and 50 permanent positions. FPL's decision is expected in July.
Several FDOT projects to improve highway aesthetics and accessibility continue, including construction of dual left turn lanes at the State Road 70 and U.S. 441 intersection. A new trailhead at Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail near the Okeechobee Pier will include bathrooms, parking and picnic tables.
County Population: 41,391 , up 3.4% vs. 2010
Unemployment rate: 6.3%
Per capita income: $29,531