Posted: October 31, 2022 by Kelly Murphy-Redd
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!

Perhaps surprising to some, Florida is also ranked among the nation’s top 10 states for manufacturing. Our state is home to over 20,200 manufacturing companies that employ more than 371,000 workers. In Okaloosa County, some 228 manufacturers employ 3,597 individuals.  In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Florida 2nd in the United States in medical device manufacturing and 3rd in manufacturing companies.

Did you know?

Florida is home to 20 major military installations. The defense business creates a $96.6 billion annual economic impact. Our state is ranked as the 2nd largest retired military population and the 3rd largest military veteran population in the United States.

Northwest Florida has been designated a Sentinal Landscape. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Department of Defense (DoD), and Department of the Interior (DOI) define sentinel landscapes as areas in which natural and working lands are well suited to protect defense facilities from land use that is incompatible with the military's mission.

Once a location becomes a sentinel landscape, USDA, DoD, and DOI work with local partners to equip private landowners with the resources necessary to carry out sustainable management practices on their properties. Sustainable management practices such as farming, ranching, and forestry not only offer economic and ecological benefits but also protect defense facilities from incompatible development that can constrain the military's ability to carry out important training and testing activities.

There are 9.7 million acres of Florida farms and ranches. We have a climate that’s ideal for growing a wide variety of produce and raising livestock. Florida produces more than 300 commodities. The state is home to 47,400 agriculture operations. Agriculture and agribusiness contribute more than $7.6 billion to the state’s economy.

Our state’s top crops include grapefruit, oranges, cucumbers, bell peppers, fresh market tomatoes, snap beans, watermelon, squash, and sweet corn. Florida is responsible for 45% of the nation’s total citrus production. It remains to be seen what damage Hurricane Ian has inflicted on our citrus industry but growers are cautiously optimistic. Citrus Greening is a bacteria causing a huge problem for our citrus industry. Researchers are fearful it may destroy the industry in Florida but are working to fight this disease.

Okaloosa County had over 46,000 acres of agricultural land in operation in 2017, including livestock pastures and timber. We grow beans, cabbages, kale, eggplant, mustard greens, turnips, cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelons, okra, green onions, peas, bell peppers, chili peppers, potatoes, squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes to name more than a few.

Our own One Okaloosa EDC is working with over 40 different companies considering locating or expanding in Okaloosa County. Many are manufacturing oriented, but there are also defense and agriculture companies. As we all continue to confront the impacts of inflation – and contemplate the prospects of a looming economic recession – it is good to remember that Okaloosa County and the State of Florida are fortunate to have a diverse economy that benefits us all.