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City on the mend?

By Staff | Jan 24, 2012

Cape Coral made news of a different sort recently, as national financial and employment prognosticators are envisioning a turnaround for the city in 2012.

Milwaukee-based staffing firm Manpower said 17 percent of employers will look to up their staffing levels during the first quarter of the year in Lee County; while Washington, D.C.-based economic forecaster Kiplinger is reporting the Cape Coral-Fort Myers statistical area will see home prices increase more than 12 percent.

Both reports will lead the nation, they say.

Now, local officials are echoing those sentiments. While they are not ready to announce the city’s full recovery, many think that Cape Coral, a one-time poster child for the recession, is on the mend.

Jeff Miloff, from Miloff-Aubuchon Realty, said the once feared “shadow industry” – an inventory of foreclosed homes yet to make it down the pipe – seems like less of a reality.

Miloff added that higher end homes are selling again. And Miloff-Aubuchon has 20 new homes in different phases of construction.

While still far from the heady days of the boom, Miloff thinks the new construction is indicative of a shrinking inventory and a stabilization of the once wild real estate market.

“New construction is coming back strong,” Miloff added.

Councilmember Marty McClain pointed to several homes being built in the Yacht Club area as signs of recovery.

A contractor by trade, McClain said there is a “guarded optimism” among his peers. And construction of higher end homes, especially in the Yacht Club area, offer proof of more than just the construction industry believing in the city.

“These are people who have faith in the economy and have faith in Cape Coral,” McClain said.

The discussion was part of the Cape Coral Civic Association’s monthly meeting, the first without long-time mentor and advisor Ralph LaPera, who passed away late last year.

Civic President Lyndia Bradley said the meeting’s purpose was to focus on the positivity the city so desperately needs, gathering city leaders to discuss a brighter and better tomorrow.

Rick Clark, president of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, said it is important for the city to be true to its vision of the future, a vision that includes building the type of infrastructure to sustain a population of more than 153,000 and likely more in the future.

Growth was important, Clark said, but so is managing that growth in a way that allows the city to grow while not dooming itself to a repeat of the bust.

Like the others, Clark isn’t ready to say that Cape Coral is all the way back. But he likes where the city seems to be heading, in a newer, more positive direction.

“We’re definitely on the cusp of an upswing,” Clark added.

Of all the presenters, new Economic Development Director Dana Brunett might be facing the toughest challenge, as he tries to lure industry to a city that has only an 8 percent commercial tax base.

Brunett pointed to a number of things the city has going for it, including the new Veterans Administration Clinic, which will lead to better days. Brunett also thinks the city is headed in the right direction.

“We’re being looked at as a community on the rise again,” Brunett said.

The Cape Coral Civic Association will celebrate its 50th Anniversary March 31, 2012, at the Italian American Club.