FORT MYERS, Fla — There’s a feeling among some local business owners that economically speaking, Southwest Florida is in a bubble right now.
“I can see a national recession in the next 12 to 18 months,” Michael Wynn, owner of Sunshine Ace Hardware says. “But I haven’t been able to see any warning signs of that locally, as of yet.”
Wynn is one of several business owners we spoke with about the state of Southwest Florida’s economy. It’s the second year in a row that Fox 4 Morning News anchor, Chris Shaw has interviewed people like Wynn. At the beginning of 2022, Wynn predicted most of the supply-chain problems we were dealing with at the time, would ease by the end of the year. And Wynn says they have.
"Southwest Florida is kind of an anomaly compared to the rest of the country,” Bill Daubmann, owner of My Shower Doorin Fort Myers says. “It's a strong economy here, people are flocking to the state.”
Daubmann says all the new people moving into our area and all the clean-up work that has to be done after Hurricane Ian, should limit the effects of a possible recession here.
But there are still concerns. Wynn doesn’t see much relief for inflation.
"I'm afraid a lot of what we're seeing is going to stick with us for a while,” he says.
Wynn believes inflation and rising home insurance rates will add to the problem of people finding affordable housing. He will open his 13th hardware store this year and employs about 500 people. But, because many of them are having trouble affording a place to live, he is urging state lawmakers and other influential people to do something.
Wynn says the message is getting out. He is hopeful that affordable housing will be a top priority in this spring’s legislative session.
"I would say in the past, the people most concerned with attainable housing are the people that needed it,” Wynn says. "Now we're seeing the retiree population is starting to see some of their quality of life impacted. And they're raising their hand and they're saying 'how can we help, who can we call, how can we help solve this problem?’"
"I'm advocating to as many groups as I can about attainable housing,” Wynn says.
Blake Gable, CEO of Barron Collier Companies, is doing something similar. He says businesses and the state and local governments need to work together on plans to build affordable housing as quickly as possible.
“We have put together a group that has been working for the last six to eight months, I’d say, with a lot of the larger employers to see if we can put together a package that we can take to Collier County and say, ‘here are 8 things, 10 things we can do working with the county to dramatically bring down the price of a home,"' Gable says.
That kind of work is part of the reason Billie Resnick says family owned-businesses are so important.
"I think they're more connected to the community,” she says. "They live here. They respond quicker to what the community needs.”
Billie and John Resnick have worked with family-owned businesses for 25 years. They help them design estate and business succession plans. And for the second year in a row, they will host The Resnick-Wynn Family Business Conference at FGCU. The keynote speaker will be third-generation retired chairman and CEO of HASBRO, Alan Hassenfeld.
US Census data shows 33% of family-owned businesses make it to a second generation. And only 13% make it to a third generation. The Resnicks say it’s crucial to set those families up with information to help their businesses survive, not just for them, but for the 83 million Americans who work for a family-owned businesses.
"I've noticed over the years,” John says, "that when family businesses do well, the economy and the community does well."