With more and more people choosing to call Florida home each and every day, we have a growing population. Alongside that growth, our economy is continuing to strengthen and flourish.
A prosperous economy leads to something every state strives for—a low unemployment rate. According to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Florida’s June 2019 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.4 percent, which is lower than our nation’s June 2019 seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.7 percent.
It is no surprise, though, that when we look at some of the counties with the highest rates of unemployment, we tend to see some of Florida’s more rural counties, as these rural counties lack some of the strong local economies and job opportunities other counties in the state may have.
However, with the proposed roadways that will traverse our state in the new Innovation in Infrastructure Plan, we are confident these rural communities will see lower unemployment rates and an increase in economic opportunity, which is a reason the Associated Industries of Florida supports the plan.
For example, along the route of the proposed Southwest-Central Florida Connector, Hendry County has an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, the highest in the state; Hardee County has an unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, the second highest in the state; Highlands County has an unemployment rate of 5.1 percent; and Glades County has an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent (DeSoto County under 4 percent).
Along the route of the proposed Suncoast Connector, Citrus County has an unemployment rate of 5.2 percent, Dixie County has an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent and Levy County has an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent. The proposed Northern Turnpike Connector will also positively benefit the communities it passes through.
How will new roads lead to more job opportunities? With additional roads comes the additional establishments that will employ Floridians in the community and create revenue for counties. Think of the new Hampton Inns, Waffle Houses or Shell stations along the proposed routes.
Additionally, the proposed corridors will result in efficient connectivity to interstates and other major corridors, providing Floridians in rural communities access to additional job opportunities and higher wages.
With new roads closer to these rural areas, commuters and travelers—that may have previously been unable to conveniently travel through the area—will pump funds into local communities when they stop for food, lodging or gas.
We look forward to seeing the positive benefits these new roads will have on Florida and encourage the newly named task forces to seriously consider these impacts as they study each corridor.
Brewster Bevis is the senior vice president of state and federal affairs at Associated Industries of Florida