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Lutgert College of Business in the News

This is the text and photo from a story in the Fort Myers News-Press of May 16, 2013

Lee County economic optimism on upswing

Optimism is growing among Lee County business executives as they weigh the local economy, according to a quarterly business climate survey released Wednesday.

The Executive Business Climate Index for the second quarter increased to 71 on a 100-point scale, which indicates expected continued improvement in the local economy. That's up from 66 in the fourth quarter of 2012 and the first quarter of 2013. The survey is conducted by FGCU and the Horizon Council, Lee's economic development partnership.

The improved index shows executives expect a strengthening economy, but the number also indicates some uncertainty in the timing and speed of the recovery, said Gary Jackson, director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at FGCU.

Dr. Gary Jackson

Other results from the second quarter executive business climate survey:
  • 82 percent of the executives expect the economy to improve over the next year.
  • 77 percent of executives stated that the current economic conditions have improved over last year.
  • 54 percent of executives expect to increase employment at their companies during the next year and only 4 percent of executives expect to reduce employment
  • 57 percent of companies expect to increase investment next year and only 4 percent expect to reduce their investment levels

"They are thinking about the future and making plans, but there are still challenges as people think about how to grow," Jackson said.

More than one in five executives surveyed said it is a challenge to find a qualified workforce, and 17.4 percent said they are worried about health care costs.

Wayne Kirkwood, CEO of Cape Coral-based Kirkwood Electric, said he expects that it might be a challenge to find qualified workers in the next year or so, but that is only a challenge because business is picking up so much. "We saw strong signs at the end of last year, but the work didn't materialize until earlier this year," Kirkwood said, adding that he worried at first that the demand was just a "blip."

However, the demand hasn't slacked.

"Our backlog has been steadily increasing over the past three months," he said.

Jim Larkin, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Fort Myers, said business continues to be stronger than a year ago.

"We are seeing strong results for the amateur baseball tournaments in Lee County even though we aren't housing the teams," Larkin said.

Those increased travelers may indicate that optimism is growing beyond the region. Matt Chambers, president of Marine Concepts/JRL Ventures, a manufacturer based in Cape Coral, said he is seeing improved optimism among national clients.

"People are feeling better about the economy," Chambers said.

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