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Lehigh’s economy is slowly improving, chamber told

June 4, 2014
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Dr. Gary Jackson, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute with Florida Gulf Coast University, was the guest speaker at the May 27 monthly luncheon of the Greater Lehigh Acres Chamber of Commerce.

In his Powerhouse presentation of a "real snapshot" of Lehigh Acres demographics, Jackson said he saw good things for Lehigh in the future.

"Lehigh Acres is beginning to grow again. That is a good sign. Businesses are reporting progress," he said. "More construction is being noticed in Lehigh."

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Gary Jackson

Surprisingly, to many, Jackson noted that the total number of firms in Lehigh is at 5,742, including large and small mom and pop businesses.

He broke it down more and noted that Hispanic-owned firms are at 33 percent, which is more than 22.4 percent for the rest of Florida. However, women-owned firms showed only a 25.3 percent of ownership, down from the overall average of 28.9 percent in Florida.

Surprisingly, retail sales were $384.3 million in Lehigh over the past year.

He said his demographics last showed Lehigh with a population of 86,784 and 29,226 households. He listed demographics for those less than 18 years of age and those more than 65 years of age and noted that the town is getting younger. Other sources have said that Lehigh is closer to 100,000 people.

He noted that median household income in Lehigh was $42,429, compared to $47,309 for the state.

Persons below the poverty level in Lehigh are at the 18.5 percentage range while in the rest of Florida, the number of those below poverty level is at 15.6 per cent.

Those with high school degree or higher was listed at 80.1 percent, down from 85.8 percent for the rest of the state. And only 13.5 percent of the residents of Lehigh hold bachelor's degrees or higher while it is doubled to 26.2 percent for the rest of the state.

He said the median value of owner-occupied housing units in Lehigh was averaged at $88,100, down drastically from an average of $170,800 for the rest of the state.

He said the numbers were gathered from the U.S. Census, QuickFacts,

American FactFinder.

He explained throughout his presentation such things as how the U.S. per capital disposable income and risen from January of 2005 to January of 2014.

He explained the third quarter deficit of the county at $652 billion and showed that expenditures were above receipts; however, the receipts graph was showing a slow increase to meet expenditures.

The presentation went on to explain U.S. foreign trade and balance current accounts, U.S. nonperforming bank loans that reached a peak of more than 5 percent in 2009 while now they are down to 2.66 percent as of October of 2013. The source was from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

Locally in Lee County, Jackson noted that the labor force and unemployment figures were at 5.8 percent by January of 2014. The highest unemployment figures for Lee County were at above 13 percent in January of 2010, but have been steadily declining since then.

"The economy is continuing to show moderate improvement but expect a few 'economic bumps,'" Jackson said.

"Employment rates are continuing to fall but a large percent of unemployed have been out of work for more than 26 weeks in Lee County.

And finally, Jackson said in his summary that he housing and financial markets are improving.

"The magic word for Lehigh is its affordability and that is beginning to grow slowly. There is new construction beginning in Lehigh. Things are looking upward for Lehigh," he said.

The college presents its Southwest Florida Regional Economic Indicators for April of 204 at:



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