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Market indicators bright:Cape economy trending upwards

By Staff | Feb 5, 2016

Cape Coral has gotten much, much younger since 1990, when the average age of its residents was 62.

U.S. Census figures for 2010, the latest available, put the average age of our residents now at 43.7 with a current population of 170,000, a figure that is up 10 percent since 2010 when the figure was 154,300.

But are we continuing to become younger?

“I think we are maintaining that level,” said Economic Development director Dana Brunett. “I think during the downturn a lot of families seized the opportunity to come to Cape Coral when they could find more affordable home prices.”

A lot of the population increase actually has occurred in the last couple of years. When the housing market went belly-up a lot of Cape residents left town when their property went into foreclosure. Cape was near the top of the list nationally in foreclosures, but now is near the top of the list for home sales and increasing values.

“People are coming back because of the affordability of the ‘dry lots’ in north Cape,” said Brunett. “The value of new construction in the city has increased by $14 million since 2013, from $5.2 million to $19 million, so that’s healthy and trending nicely.”

Every other economic factor being researched shows Cape Coral is heading in the right direction. Housing starts, commercial developments, new businesses all have increased so much just since 2013.

“New housing starts are up 108 percent over 2013 and commercial building permits are up 183 percent for the same time period,” said Brunett. “It’s going well, obviously, and I think that trend will continue in 2016.”

Building permits issued since 2013 for new and remodel construction has increased in value from $6.1 million to $34 million in 2015.

“Cape Coral is known as a relatively safe community which lends itself to people wanting to be here,” said Brunett. “Look at the vacancy rates, too. Retail space is being gobbled up. We have a steady stream of renters coming through. People from Germany, for instance, come here for four weeks and leave. Then others come in to replace them.”

With the population figure of 170,000 in mind, the city is estimated to swell to more than 200,000 during season, counting the renters and seasonal residents.

“I’ve talked to business owners who said last summer did not slow down as much as it has in the past,” said Brunett. “One business owner told me he had the busiest summer he’s had since he opened.”

Brunett said a lot of new businesses are opening in the Cape, identifying Mona Lisa Pizza (Fort Myers), Panera Bread, a sports bar influx with Overtime, Duffy’s Sports Grill and a new Buffalo Wild Wings, then there is MobileMax Technologies along with others on the list.

“We’re pushing for the higher-paying jobs, like MobileMax,” Brunett has said previously. “We want more of those for our residents. We want to keep people from going over the bridges to work. We want them to stay here with the right opportunities.”

MobileMax comes with not only an increase in salaries, but in job opportunities as 200 permanent jobs are expected within the first three years of operation.

“More are coming here,” he said. “And from the pure economic aspect the 4 a.m. bar closing looks like a positive for the city. That discussion will come up before City Council in the near future.”