Things were looking up in 2017


Almost forgot, huh.

After spending years in the doldrums in the wake of last decade’s Great Recession, the local economy trended upward in several ways.

At least the stats were positive.

County property values jumped for a fourth consecutive year, rising $1.617 billion, of 9.3 percent, more than double the average annual increase of the past four years.

The increase was across the board, with the tax base growing 4.7 percent in Port St. Joe and 4.1 percent in Wewahitchka.

The housing market also continued to grow in strength, with a 63 percent increase in single-family home building permits; the growth in the past two years has been 97 percent.

In the workforce, unemployment dropped to 3 percent by the end of October, its lowest rate in more than two decades.

Storefronts were filling and expanding in the Port St. Joe business district and several new restaurants opened or were under construction.

In addition, public school enrollment continued a steady advance that has seen the number of children in the four public schools grow 6 percent over the past four years.

For the fourth consecutive year, bed tax revenue grew and for the first time eclipsed $2 million overall for the year.

There has been an uptick in activity at the Port of Port St. Joe, including an increase in barge traffic.

Trends, locally and regionally, also seem headed to filling economic sails:

A Coast Guard contract and long-anticipated expansion of Eastern Shipbuilding.

The creation of a Northwest Florida logistics freight zone, aimed at mining economic development opportunities to the extensive rail system in the region and with a significant focus on the Port of Port St. Joe.

An increase in mission, and as result a jump in personnel, coming to Tyndall Air Force Base.

Two large business expansions into Bay County.

The promise of Triumph Gulf Coast to provide the funding to unlock possibilities.

The needle was most decidedly up in 2017.

Of course, there was more sobering news, such as a recent study that showed Gulf County was at the top of Florida counties in the disparity between home value growth and household income growth.