Survey Shows Workforce Housing Need



What does Sarasota need to stay competitive with its business environment? Workforce housing, according to a new survey conducted by the Economic Development Corporation of Sarasota County.

The EDC over much of 2016 conducted a survey of executives with 74 companies in the region and generally found optimism about the future. Of those surveyed, 45 percent anticipate revenue growth of 10 to 24 percent this year, and 86 percent of the executives rate the state and local tax structure here as excellent or good. But survey participants also said it was “critical that the Sarasota County community actively address workforce housing availability and affordability.”

Mark Huey, EDC president, will publicly present the findings of the Sarasota County Business Competitiveness Survey at a Sarasota County Commission meeting today. This marks the second time such a survey has been conducted and presented by the EDC, which interviewed a cross-section of businesses by size (31 percent of companies had under 25 employees, while 19 percent had more than 100). Researchers did lean heavily into the opinion of manufacturers and distributors, who make up 48 percent of those surveyed, compared to 14 percent in business and technology and 9 percent in real estate, finance and insurance.

“Everybody is feeling optimism,” Huey says. As for the issues that did get highlighted as challenges—workforce availability and affordable housing—those are matters affecting every region that Sarasota competes with for business. “If you went to any community in the United States, they are talking about these issues,” Huey says. “We are in a tight unemployment period, so everywhere you go, communities can’t find enough talent to support business growth. And around affordable housing, most metropolitan areas are struggling with that as housing values have gone up.”

County commissioners say they want to hear about how the needs of executives can be addressed. “I’m very much looking forward to discussing how we go about getting some workforce housing options,” says Commissioner Paul Caragiulo.

Commissioner Mike Moran said the survey served as a good barometer for the demands in the marketplace today, but stressed that problems like workforce housing will need to be solved in the private sector. “The government doesn’t create things,” he says. “It’s important for government to listen to the private sector and ask what they need or want to fill the demand and create the supply.” Regarding housing specifically, Moran says the issue will be critical in making sure good jobs exist in the region. “It’s incredibly important the businesses we have here can have the workforce they need,” he says. “Businesses are struggling to find the workforce here. Everything is entwined in the conversation.”

Graphic from Sarasota County Business Competitiveness Survey.

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