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(Opinion) Matt Reed: Brevard Economy Poised For Takeoff

Jan. 12, 2013 -

I’m bullish on Brevard after a fresh look at a decade of data for jobs and economic growth.

Yes, the numbers since 2002 do reflect a recession — including a big drop in local construction jobs that have not recovered and have weighed on overall employment growth. But that’s the sum of the bad news.

Consider what else I found in an analysis of data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

First — and most encouraging — is a 33 percent increase since 2002 in the number of people who earn their livings as business owners. The 59,000 “non-farm proprietors” today are second in number only to the 61,000 at the peak of the boom in 2007. Brevard had 44,000 business owners in 2002.

Second, Brevard’s annual gross domestic product has grown since 2009 at a rate similar to its rate from 2002-2006. Employment hasn’t kept up, meaning that manufacturers and others have become more productive.

Third, output from companies in Brevard that make stuff — those labeled “goods producing” — has grown as a SHARE of the economy even as the service sector has recovered and grown its output, too.

And finally, there’s government.

We’ve all heard horror stories about spending binges and/or deep cuts in the public sector – depending on which political junky has our ear. But the data show overall government spending and jobs remained comparatively flat over the past decade while the private sector grew substantially.

Time to 'buy?'

Granted, this is little more than a peek at the numbers, from a writer who downloads data from time to time to better grasp the community we serve.

But from what I can see of Brevard’s output, the housing bust and space layoffs appear squarely behind us. Job growth still lags, but won’t for long. So if you’re looking to “buy low” in something, now could be the time.

Other take-offs from the federal data:

• The drop in construction in Brevard was not accompanied by swings in banking or government. That defies conventional wisdom in Florida, where historically so much seems to hinge on development.

• The health care industry is now Brevard’s biggest employer, with more than 33,000 workers. It has grown more than 26 percent since 2002, never wavering during the recession.

• Military jobs dropped 14.5 percent over the past decade, from about 3,400 to about 2,900.

The biggest news about the size of government over the past decade may to be the lack of news.

Take local government employment, always a source of political drama.

The total number of cops, teachers, utility workers and other positions in Brevard grew from 19,300 in 2002 to a high of 21,000 in 2008 before slipping to 20,300 by 2011. Hundreds of layoffs since 2009 certainly hurt the people affected.

But as a share of all jobs, local government employment has barely wavered, accounting for between 7.2 percent and 7.9 percent through boom and bust, the data show. Its share actually was smallest during the boom, outpaced by private-sector hiring.

As for spending by local and state government, it grew slowly but steadily over the past decade, up 44 percent since 2002. But again, it was outpaced by the private sector, whose activity grew 51 percent.

So rather than stunt growth, a ho-hum level of government jobs and spending seems to have helped maintain a foundation for it since the housing collapse, data show.

I’m excited for all those new business owners.

Contact Reed at 321-242-3631 or

*Reprint Permission Granted by: Florida Today Newspaper 1-16-2013