The work of the City of Punta Gorda and the Charlotte County area as a whole has been recognized by the Milken Institute. The Milken Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that catalyzes practical scalable solutions to global challenges. The institute in collaboration with the Center for Regional Economics has issued the Best-Performing Cities 2021 Foundations for Growth and Recovery report.
The report highlights cities that are driving economic growth nationwide. Including those that have businesses that are creating new jobs, and exhibit policy and investment choices that are positively influencing the community’s economic outcomes. In the 2021 report, the Punta Gorda Metropolitan Statistical Area has improved from a 2020 rank of 39th to a 2021 rank of 11th in tier one small cities. The report cites one-year wage growth, short-term job growth and a unique positive year-on-year job growth. These results are particularly impressive given that majority of jobs are in the service arena.
While those results are encouraging the report also cites areas of opportunity. The region has room to grow in the area of high-tech industrial specializations. Although the area was 170th in high-tech gross domestic product (GDP) growth this is an improving statistic as high tech GDP has grown 58.6% over the course of the previous five years.
The other area of opportunity noted is housing affordability. Low housing affordability is seen as a liability to the area.
From the outside looking in, the authors noted the age distribution as being more even in Punta Gorda than other small cities. Citing a population of only 56% of the population being age 65 and older as a positive. Other positives include the investment in the city’s recovery post Hurricane Charley, and the development of the tourist industry. They go on to attribute the high local real estate demand to investments in amenities such as local parks, and an improved downtown area as the results of careful planning.
Preservation of our city’s unique assets as well as improvement in the availability of affordable housing are two large areas of current focus for the city. Progress is being made in the area of affordable housing with the potential expansion of the Verandas III on Airport Road.
I have also placed a new internal focus on forecasting for the needs of the city departments and divisions to meet the goals and objectives of long term plans including maintenance of the city’s unique assets. This includes developing a clear understanding of operating impact for each Capital Improvement Project, staffing needs, and equipment needs for the city. Careful planning also continues with the development of form-based codes to produce predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code to continue to preserve our small-town character while promoting diversity, economic development and sustainability.