Military Recruiting, Readiness and Retiring – A Triple-Edged Sword

We know the military is 80% of our local economy. Eglin AFB, servicemen, and related personnel are essential to the economic health of Okaloosa County. There are issues posing a threat to the economic stability of not only our community but the country as a whole.

Last year, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and chief of staff of the Army Gen. James McConville wrote the Army would end the fiscal year with close to 20,000 fewer soldiers than the budgeted target. The total number of soldiers could further decrease from 466,400 to 445,000-452,000 by the end of the 2023 fiscal year.

The official website of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command states 71% of youth do not qualify for military service because of obesity, drugs, physical and mental health problems, misconduct, and aptitude. Fifty percent of youth admit they know little to nothing about military service and only 1% of the population currently serves. The veteran population is declining.

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Drug Abuse
Does Drug Abuse Play a Role in the Labor Shortage?

We are bombarded with news of Fentanyl streaming over our southern border at an alarming rate during the last couple of years. Fentanyl killed over 100,000 Americans last year. Many of those deaths weren’t because people were “using” Fentanyl but unknown to the user, the drug was in some other kind of medication.

But we have also heard about the “opioid crisis” for several years. This crisis has affected every part of the United States and has hit rural areas particularly hard. The opioid crisis includes prescription drugs as well Fentanyl.

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, substance abuse accounts for between 9 and 26 percent of the decline in prime-age labor-force participation between February 2020 and June 2021.

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Florida's Diverse Economy

Sometimes we need to be reminded of things. When we think of our local economy, we naturally think first of tourism and the military. But we often forget about manufacturing and agriculture. Our other top industries in Florida include cleantech, aerospace and aviation, information technology, headquarters, life sciences, logistics and distribution, and financial and professional services.

All of these industries create jobs and add economic vibrancy to Florida.

A diverse economy allows for some stability. While one sector may ebb and flow, others may remain strong. The Bureau of Economic Analysis ranked Florida the 4th largest economy in the United States in 2019.  Even more impressive, consider this.  If Florida was a country, it would be the 17th largest economy in the world!

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Inflation Plus Recession Equals Stagflation

We talk a lot about economic developers facilitating the creation of high-wage jobs and partnering with educational institutions to offer programs equipping students with skills needed by employers. This work requires a lot of effort and energy at the best of times. Economic developers are needed now more than ever during a time when wages are not keeping up with inflation, we are getting poorer and the economy is slowing. We need them to encourage companies to relocate to our communities, make large capital investments, and create more jobs. One Okaloosa EDC does this for Okaloosa County. At any given time, One Okaloosa EDC is working with many prospective businesses considering relocating to Okaloosa County.

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Fueling Economic Development

Economic development has flourished since the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840) when economies transitioned from primarily agriculture and crafts to industry, manufacturing, and transportation. Jobs were created exponentially.

Initially, workers were miserable and impoverished. Conditions were unsanitary. Long hours, no protections, and lack of job security were prevalent. Innovation, regulations, and social reform were the catalysts for better conditions.

The technologies developed improved agriculture providing more food for more people. New basic materials, like iron and steel, were incorporated.  Fuels and power, such as coal, the steam engine, electricity, petroleum, and the internal-combustion engine transformed lives by providing people with more material conveniences and the ability to travel faster and communicate more rapidly.

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Evolution of Education
The Evolution of Education

History as Blueprint

Education today is on two tracks. The traditional K-12 model culminating in a college degree remains predominant. But, training in specific STEM subjects and other disciplines beginning in elementary grades has gained momentum. Students often leave high school with certifications and/or a year or two of college under their belts. This second track is deemed a positive development because not every student is interested in or has the disposition for college.

Certifications often help students obtain high-wage jobs out of high school. Having a year or two of college before entering college helps save time and money. Either way, the purpose of education in a modern complex society is to prepare students to be productive members of society.

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Stakeholder Capitalism

How Does it Affect Economic Development?

I read an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. The authors write about the Dark Ages, the Industrial Revolution, Capitalism, and Stakeholder Capitalism. It made me wonder if the scenario they described could eliminate economic development and the good work economic developers do.

In the article, they quote Karl Marx as saying capitalism,

“accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic Cathedrals…achieving more massive and colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together in scarce one hundred years.”

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Lots of Jobs and Lack of Workers

4.4 million people quit their jobs in February. They call this The Great Resignation.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 11.3 million jobs were open nationwide. The resignations increased in retail, durable goods manufacturing and local/state government education and decreased in insurance and finance. The March data will be released on May 3rd. Many quit for better jobs, but 1.4 million had not returned from the pandemic.

I went to Lowe’s this weekend. A new employee couldn’t help me. He actually said he did not know what I was talking about when I asked to buy a bag of soil. I talked to an employee I always see, and he said they couldn’t keep workers. He said it was worse this year than last year. There is a sign posted saying they will interview today. That sign has been there for some time. Adequate training is a big issue, but what if people don’t stay long enough to be trained?

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New Urbanism Seaside
New Urbanism & Small Town Planning

Many of you have heard the term New Urbanism. Even if you haven’t heard the term, you’ve seen it in action. Look at Andres Duany’s Seaside for example – the first New Urbanist town in the United States. In articles about Seaside, you will find terms like “internationally famous,” and “iconic.”

The Congress of the New Urbanism defines the term as follows: “New Urbanism is a planning and development approach based on the principles of how cities and towns had been built for the last several centuries: walkable blocks and streets, housing and shopping in close proximity, and accessible public spaces. In other words: New Urbanism focuses on human-scaled urban design.”

It all sounds great doesn’t it?

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Why We Should Pay More Attention to Farming

Besides Not Being Able to Live Without It

You may have heard that Florida’s citrus growers – a dwindling group already – are preparing for yet another challenging year.  Citrus greening, fruit drop and weather challenges are the culprit.   According to the Florida Department of Citrus, Florida is projected to produce 56 million boxes of oranges this season, which would be the state’s second smallest citrus output in the last 20 years.  For those of us who live outside the citrus belt, these impacts may be less obvious – until we buy orange juice and other citrus products.  We pay attention when there are food and toilet paper shortages in the store. When those things are gone, everything else pales in comparison.


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