11 Major Industry Clusters Drive the Regional Economy
The five counties of Southwest Florida are best known for their spectacular quality of life, with sunshine, warm waters, pristine beaches and thriving wildlife. The region is home to 1.3 million residents and a playground for 6.8 million tourists each year.
From agriculture to manufacturing, information technology to life sciences, and tourism to sports, and each county offers a unique combination of features that contribute to our vibrant and growing economy. The major cities in Southwest Florida are Naples, Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda, Marco Island, Sanibel, Boca Grande and Captiva.
BUSINESS SERVICES – Business services grew tremendously in Southwest Florida after Hertz Global Holdings relocated its world headquarters to Estero, in South Lee County. Employing some 15,423 people, business services provide professional employment opportunities to educated workers as well as careers for low-skilled workers. Jobs in this cluster vary, ranging from careers in finance and computer services to engineering and architecture. While overall employment in business services steadily declined between 2009 and 2015, its consulting services sub cluster grew by 34 percent.
CONSTRUCTION PRODUCTS AND SERVICES – The second-largest cluster in the region, Construction Products and Services employed 48,812 people in the region with significantly better short-term growth than the state of Florida as a whole. What is more, the annual wage growth rate between 2009 and 2015 for construction products and services has steadily increased, with an average growth rate of 3.9 percent in the Southwest Region. Both Lee and Collier counties have extremely high levels of employment specialization and employment share compared to the rest of the country.,
DISTRIBUTION AND ELECTRONIC COMMERCE – Employing some 9,218 people in the region, the distribution and electronic commerce cluster includes a diverse number of predominantly small companies engaged in wholesale activities such as farming, home furnishings, fruit and vegetable distribution, plants and garden equipment, and sports and recreational goods. These companies typically employ less than 100 workers (only three firms employ over 250 workers). These companies are the backbone of many retailers such as home, garden, and grocery stores and many others that use or sell electronic products, household goods and office equipment.
EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE CREATION – A key business recruiting advantage includes access to quality, flexible, and dynamic educational institutions. The education and knowledge creation cluster in this section includes private educational institutions and organizations that provide tutoring and training programs. Specifically, these private institutions include business and secretarial schools, professional training programs, junior colleges and four-year universities. It also includes research organizations in biotechnology, physical, engineering and life sciences.
FINANCIAL SERVICES – A key industry in Southwest Florida that employed 11,208 workers in 2016, financial services include predominantly financial investment firms, securities brokers and dealers, and credit intermediaries. Virtually all of them are small establishments, employing 20 workers or less, although many are branches of larger investment companies and banks, whose headquarters are in other parts of the state or the country. A key characteristic of the financial services cluster is that it provides services such as wealth management to the growing retiree sector of the population with significant wealth to manage.
HEALTH AND WELLNESS – The health and wellness cluster in Southwest Florida reflects the national growth rate in health care services. Ranking as the 8th largest cluster in the state, it accounts for 5.7 percent of the state’s total employment. The growth of this sector soared at nearly 17 percent over the six-year period (2009 to 2015). The cluster includes a long list of small establishments, and a few large ones, that provide services across the country (as measured by employment). Jobs in this cluster are expected to pay better than average wages and salaries commensurate with education, skills and experience.
HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM – Representing what is perhaps the comparative advantage of Southwest Florida, hospitality and tourism employs over 75,000 workers in the region. A key characteristic is its seasonality, although as the native population grows and as the region attracts summer tourist traffic from South America, somewhat of a more year-round industry has taken root in recent years.
MARKETING, DESIGN, AND PUBLISHING – Comprised of 678 firms and employing almost 2,400 workers, the marketing, design, and publishing cluster includes advertising agencies and related services, design services, publishing, and other marketing-related services. Although this cluster has experienced long-run employment declines in recent years, it experienced a small improvement in employment from 2014 to 2015.
MEDICAL DEVICES – A cluster comprised of a dominant firm surrounded by a small, competitive fringe, the medical devices cluster consists of just five six-digit North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes with two subclusters. These include optical instruments, surgical and medical instruments, surgical appliances and supplies manufacturing, and dental equipment. The cluster ranks third in employment ranking in 2015 in Florida. One employer accounts for over 1,000 employees, with the 15 other establishments account for less than 100 employees altogether across all five counties.
PERFORMING ARTS – Comprised of theater companies, operatic organizations, musicians, dancers, actors and artists, the Performing Arts cluster represents people engaged in producing, promoting, supporting and participating in live artistic performance. Its economic impact affects incomes and employment in the region as visitors come from other areas and spend their dollars on performances.
TRANSPORTATION AND LOGISTICS – Encompassing air, rail, bus, and freight transportation services, transportation and logistics also includes related operation services and support activities such as inspections, maintenance, repairs, security, and loading/unloading. With an employment level of 2,438 in 2015, the number of jobs in this cluster group increased by 59.1 percent from 2009 to 2015, compared to only 21.8 percent for the entire state. The number of establishments in the cluster accounted for almost 4 percent of the total number of such establishments in the state.