Boom times ahead for Lee and Collier Counties

THOUGH THE PANDEMIC IS FAR from over in Florida, economic development directors and other economic experts in four counties forecast a boom: Each county will see at least $1 billion in development over the next two years and the creation of 2,000 jobs, according to this Florida Weekly article.

At Southwest Florida International Airport, things are looking up. Construction continues on a new $80 million Airport Traffic Control Tower. Meanwhile, the $280 million, 200,000-square-foot expansion of the airport terminal, a project that had been deferred for a year due to the impact of the pandemic, will be bid this month, said Ben Siegel, executive director for the Lee County Port Authority.

Passenger traffic may be down, but the airport is No. 1 among the top 50 airports in the country in recovery, he said. The airport has recovered about 60% of its pre-COVID traffic, more than any other airport in the nation. From the airport standpoint, “we are optimistic,” Mr. Siegel said.

In Lee County, $2 billion in economic development and 6,500 jobs are expected in the next two years, all in one booming development area, said John Talmage, Lee County Economic Development director.

He’s talking about the corridor of Alico Road in South Lee County, surrounded by Three Oaks Parkway, Treeline Avenue, the Southwest Florida International Airport and the FGCU campus.

The area is already home to 33,000 jobs, Mr. Talmage said. “We project over the next three to five years the area will have 65,000 jobs, or 20% of Lee County’s entire workforce.”

In addition, there is so much development going in the corridor of Treeline Avenue between Alico Road and Daniels Parkway, “it’s looking like a whole new city,” he said.

In Collier County, Sean Callahan projects about $1.5 billion in economic development in the next two years along with an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 jobs.

“I think we’re looking at an extremely booming time right now and it only looks better for next year,” said Mr. Callahan, who is executive director of corporate business operations in the county manager’s office.

A high number of businesses are looking to relocate to Collier County from other parts of the country, he said. Once we get past the pandemic, people will also start traveling more, he said.

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