Naples is best city for job growth

Forbes named Naples, Florida the best city for future job growth.

By Alexi C. Cardona

Naples ranks high on a lot of “best” and “top” lists — best food city, best small city, best town for the holidays, top city for firefighters, top al fresco dining, top in the nation for growth.

And now, the city has been crowned the reigning champ for future job growth in the United States by Forbes Magazine.

“It’s exciting,” said Beth Barger, the Naples center supervisor for Career Source Southwest Florida, a publicly funded agency that matches job seekers with employers. “We’re seeing growth all around us.”

Six Florida cities are among the top 10 metro areas for projected job growth. Naples ranked first; Cape Coral, third; Orlando, fourth; Ocala, fifth; Port St. Lucie, ninth; and North Port, 10th.

Naples has projected annual gains of 4.6 percent through 2017, according to Moody’s Analytics.

“One of the things we say is that when Naples works, opportunity happens,” said John Cox, president of the Naples Chamber of Commerce. “We’re seeing rapid growth in innovation and tech jobs, in construction, tourism, medical care and medical technology.”

The Forbes report did,however, state that “not all new jobs are created equal,” and that many of the new jobs in Florida are low-wage service jobs.

Barger said the Naples community traditionally was built on service and seasonal jobs for the swelling winter population but is transitioning into growth in management, construction, health care and information technology.

“There’s always going to be a demand for service jobs. You can’t avoid that,” Barger said.

Still, not everyone is buying what Forbes is selling with its ranking. The social media response to the Forbes story on the Naples Daily News’ Facebook page has been mostly negative.

Commenters have mocked the claim that Naples is No. 1 in the country for job growth, even though the ranking is a projection through 2017. Readers question the types of jobs that will be available in the coming years, stating that minimum- wage and entry-level jobs won’t pay the bills in Naples.

Naples resident Ryan Bladen, one of the Facebook commenters, is married and has a 17 month-old baby. He’s a musician and his wife works at a local wealth management firm. Bladen said if they lived anywhere else in the country, their salaries would be enough. But in Naples, “it’s really tough,” he said.

Bladen wonders where the 4.6 percent growth projection came from and what kinds of jobs will be available.

“It’s an increase in jobs, but are they jobs people can make a living doing?” Bladen said. “They’re saying ‘job growth,’ but if it’s low-level positions, that doesn’t raise a family.”

Economists for Moody’s Analytics, the firm behind the job growth projection, could not be reached for comment.

Forbes reporter Kurt Badenhausen said Moody’s Analytics used total employment figures from 2014 to make the projection.

The unemployment rate in Naples in 2013 was 5.6 percent. The state unemployment rate in the same year was 11.8 percent.

U.S. census data from 2013 shows 8.1 percent of jobs in Naples are in arts, entertainment and hospitality; 12.8 percent are in retail; 14.3 percent are in professional, scientific, management and administrative positions; 18.8 percent are in educational, health care and social assistance services and 19.2 percent are in finance, real estate and insurance.

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