As Lee County rebuilds, economy continues to grow

Mark Stevens Headshot

February 29, 2024

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By Mark Stevens

In 2023, Lee County dove headfirst into rebuilding from Hurricane Ian, reaching tremendous milestones across the community.

We continued to prove that the relationship with the Lee County Board of County Commissioners, the Horizon Council, Horizon Foundation and the Economic Development Office is one of our most valuable business and community assets. The unwavering commitment to our shared mission to invest in the long-term vitality of Lee County, its businesses and residents has been instrumental as we expand, fortify and diversify the economic environment in our area.

Positive growth
As a result of this collaboration, we saw our economy continue to grow as more businesses and residents moved to Lee County, and we maintained our reputation as one of the best places to live and work in the nation. Our population is now over 800,000, with the 1 million threshold on the horizon. Since 2020, our population has grown 5.3%, a notable increase despite the pandemic and Ian.

Along with the increased population, we saw additional signs of a strong economy over the past three years, such as the 48% increase in sales tax collection, the 65% increase in property values and 39.1% increase in GDP.

Jobs were plentiful for the increasing population as 2,850 new businesses and 20,000 new jobs were added in Lee County from Q1-Q3 in 2023. Meanwhile, Lee County was named one of the Top 20 cities in the nation for “Remote Work Hot Spot” by Yahoo Finance.

Commercial sector thriving
Even with the robust employment numbers in 2023, there is much more to come. Right now, the Alico Road corridor has 50 active commercial and industrial projects underway with 12 million square feet expected to come online throughout the next five years, bringing an annual job growth rate of 1-3% for the next five years. This has prompted the Board of County Commissioners to prioritize the Alico Road Connector project, which will extend Alico Road to Sunshine Boulevard in Lehigh Acres. Additionally, the Three Oaks Parkway Extension connector project will increase the potential for additional growth.

It begins with education
Preparing the employees needed for these job openings begins with a sound education system. Lee County and the Lee County School Board are ready to support education for our continued population and job growth by investing more than $1 billion over the next 10 years. This investment has already begun thanks to voters passing a half-cent sales tax increase that has generated an additional $440.8 million dollars in capital funding. In 2023, the sales tax allowed the School District of Lee County to open three new schools, complete five school renovations, provide 73,000 Chromebooks to over 100,000 students and more.

These numbers, while quite impressive, are a brief look at the impressive 2023 that Lee County enjoyed. More details highlighting the economic impact the Horizon Foundation, Horizon Council and Lee County Economic Development Office have made are available in the 2023 Annual Review booklet. To view a copy, visit https://books.prioritymarketing.com/books/wjsi/.

About the Author

Mark Stevens is president of the Horizon Foundation and president of Stevens Construction, which provides construction management, general contracting and consulting services to clients and design professionals. Stevens Construction is headquartered in Fort Myers and also has offices in Orlando and Sarasota.