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Cape Coral-Fort Myers sees ‘greatest gains’ in poverty

By Staff | Sep 13, 2010

The Cape Coral-Fort Myers metropolitan area is among five in the country that experienced the greatest increases in poverty last year.
Other areas that saw significant gains in poverty numbers include Modesto, Calif.; Detroit; Los Angles and Las Vegas, according to a U.S. Census information analyzed by the Associated Press.
The poverty report is the latest in a series of bleak statistical news that has placed the Cape in the top tier in terms of home foreclosures, plummeting real estate prices and rising unemployment.
“It doesn’t exactly give me the warm and fuzzies,” Mayor John Sullivan said Monday about the poverty gains ranking.
It shows the Cape is still in trouble and that the bad economy is still having a troubling impact, Sullivan said.
The actual Census report is expected Thursday. AP explained its methodology in its Monday report.
“Interviews with six demographers who closely track poverty trends found wide consensus that 2009 figures are likely to show a significant rate increase to the range of 14.7 percent to 15 percent,” the AP states, adding if those estimates on families in poverty prove true, more than 1 in 7, or some 45 million people, in this country were poor last year.
Last year likely will be the highest single-year increase since the government began calculating poverty figures in 1959, AP reports, stating the previous high was recorded in 1980.
Chamber of Commerce President Mike Quaintance said it is very discouraging that Cape Coral is among the areas reporting significant gains in poverty numbers.
“I will be honest with you… the problems reflect the folks that are out of work,” he said.
According to data released in August by the state of Florida, July’s unemployment percentage was up from a revised rate of 13.1 percent in June for Lee County.
Statewide, Florida’s unemployment rate in August stayed at 10.7 percent, which was up 4.4 percentage points from the July 2008 rate.
“Honestly, I think the sooner people get back to work that will change,” Quaintance said. “Unemployment still being rather high makes it real difficult.”
Quaintance said seasonal employment, which will add jobs shortly, will help local numbers.
Quaintance said he sees a very short growth for the next two years.
Joe Mazurkiewicz, president of BJM Consulting, said the the poverty level ranking is not surprising as construction comprises the biggest job base in Cape Coral, “which is going in the tank.”
Mazurkiewicz said for the community to see a change in the economy they are going to have to take care of the construction industry and make it as easy as possible for the industry to recoup and make a turnaround.
“There is not a secret way to get out of this problem,” he said.
Mazurkiewicz said whenever a community has a central focus on one industry they have to work hard to get that industry up and running again.

— Material from the Associated Press is included in this report.