Florida and Tampa Bay will be in good economic shape for 2018 and beyond, an economist for Florida Taxwatch predicts.
Kyle Baltuch, who also is director of development at Florida Taxwatch, offered that assessment during a Feb. 2 luncheon hosted by the Pasco Economic Development Council.
He said his optimism stems in part from strides made last year.
He pointed to Florida’s gross domestic product growth of 3.1 percent in 2017. That made Florida sixth in the nation and outpaced the state’s main competitors of New York, California and Texas.
A low unemployment rate (3.6 percent in 2017), combined with a strong housing and rental market (permit activity increased by 14.8 percent) and growth in industries like construction and management, are other positive indicators for the state going forward, Baltuch explained.
“Looking at the state as a whole we had a pretty strong 2017,” he added.
Florida’s economy is expected to reach the $1 trillion mark sometime this year.
To put that in perspective, Florida would rank as the 16th largest economy in the world, if it was a country.
Florida is a major player, he said, adding that he believes confidence in the economy will continue to have a positive effect on its growth.
Tampa meanwhile, is expected to have the second highest Gross Metro Product in all of Florida’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas in 2018.
Baltuch suggested one of the region’s largest and growing industries — the financial, insurance, real estate and leasing sector — is a positive indicator for at least the next few years.
“You want to be strong in those fields,” he said. “If you’re doing strong in real estate, you’re doing strong in rental. That means you have people that want to live in your area, and you have the jobs to pay for those.”
Other industries, including construction and phosphate mining, also have helped diversify Tampa’s economy, Baltuch said.
Some of Tampa’s major developments are another encouraging sign, he said.
For example, MetLife is expanding its Tampa operations with 430 additional high-wage jobs.
Strategic Property Partners, a real estate development company owned by Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, is designing an innovation hub in downtown Tampa. And, downtown Tampa is also the top pick for the new Tampa Bay Rays stadium.
“Tampa is absolutely on the upswing,” Baltuch said.
Elsewhere, the economist specifically praised Pasco County for creating jobs in the advanced manufacturing and information technology arenas. He expects the percentage of Pasco residents to live and work in the county to increase over the next five years to 10 years.
“Everybody, for years, thought of Pasco as a bed county for Tampa, but what we’re seeing here is more and more jobs created in the right area, and in the right fields,” Baltuch explained.
As for improvements, Baltuch said investing in infrastructure must be Florida’s top priority, particularly for attracting major corporations.
The state received a “C” grade on its infrastructure report card for 2017.
“Infrastructure is an issue here in Florida, an issue here in Tampa. The more we can get ahead of that curve, the stronger you’re going to better prepare yourself for the future,” he said.
Other priorities include improving the state’s education system at the kindergarten through 12th grade level, as well as the state college level, he said.
While Florida personal income grew 3.1 percent in 2017, per capital personal income growth ranked in the bottom 20 among all states, according to Florida Taxwatch.
Baltuch explained much of that personal income gain is by transients from other states moving to Florida for jobs.
“We really need to work on that education gap because that will help us keep some of the jobs in the state. You’d love to be filling those jobs by people that are already here,” he said.
Florida Taxwatch is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute located in Tallahassee.
Published February 7, 2018