We Must Be Prepared For Next Recession

Guest Correspondence

The need for economic development and opportunity is great here in Sarasota County. While business may be booming, the next recession is always right around the corner. Are we prepared for it? The answer is no, we aren’t even taking good care of our economic development in the good times.

Case in point is the unemployment of young people in Sarasota County. According to the Tampa Bay Partnership 2019 Economic Competitiveness report, 14.67% of the population of 16-24 year-olds in Sarasota County are neither employed nor enrolled in school. The report refers to this rate as “disconnected youths.”

Think about that for a minute. During the Great Recession, in 2010, when Sarasota County walked into the proverbial brick wall and had an astronomical unemployment of 12.2 percent, we had economic chaos around us.

Restaurants, stores, and businesses were closing. People were leaving the area for better opportunity and people were losing their homes. Recession unemployment never got as high as the 2019 Competitiveness Report data for 16- to 24-year-olds. This is happening right now. Today. While we are in a booming economy.

We have the numbers to prove it, we are failing our young people, no doubt about it. Shame on us. We need to snap out of our laziness.

This is a failure to be shared by all, but also should be an alarm bell of epic proportions. Economic prosperity is skipping a generation of local kids and young adults and we have no real public identifiable plan to solve it. It’s no wonder they are leaving the area for better opportunity in droves.

Striking in the report is the identifiable business applications to the issue. On page 2 you see in large print jumping out at you, a quote from business leadership guru Peter Drucker, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

We have theories, marketing and generalities of best practices. We are just shooting in the dark for “support” of companies that employ young people or “awareness” for talent. We celebrate one-off companies who are engaging this generation, but we have no real measurables to our methods. We do, however, have this pesky economic “disconnected” rate, which is almost two points above Manatee County.

It’s not enough and it has to end, we need a strong unification around what we know succeeds and insist upon the measurables and accomplishments in deliverables. We need to attack this with an urgency and panic like we had in 2010. 

Our young people deserve no less and we have an obligation to prove to them, through measurables, that we are leaving this county in a better economic condition than when we found it.

Christine Robinson is exeuctive director of The Argus Foundation.

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