Webster’s dictionary defines economy (noun) as, “the process or system by which goods and services are produced, sold, and bought in a country or region”. An economy is the basis of a community’s ability to provide for itself. This starts with the production of a product (goods or service) and ends with a sale for financial gain or progress. This is a very basic understanding of an economy. In reality, an economy is made up of each and every individual in a society. A community’s economy is an extremely important part of their sustainability.

But what does that have to do with sustainable community planning and development?

The economy of southwest Florida is affected by local, national, and global events. Economic development is extremely important for our community and is something our community leaders have been concerned with for decades. Lee County’s Economic Development Office is a great resource for local, domestic, and international businesses. They offer site selection assistance, demographic and statistical information, employee training and recruiting, community tours, and even financial assistance. Finding the right businesses to call Lee County home will help improve our community’s economic standing. Business brings money, which brings jobs, which translates into more localized spending. Future job growth over the next 10 years is projected to be around 42%, according to the Lee County Economic Development Office (2014).

Market development is another aspect of a sustainable economy. Growth and development go hand in hand with financial stability. Understanding the unique demographic of Lee County goes a long way with market development. The drastic change in population throughout the year affects how our economy functions. Businesses depend on our winter season to bring tourists and snowbirds into our restaurants, stores, and beaches. The money they invest into our community helps to keep our economy strong year round. While the summer months are notoriously harder on some of our local businesses, they have the ability to plan financially for the slow months.

Land redevelopment and revitalization are a result of market development and a strong economy. Lee County is growing. Ground is breaking all over the place. New buildings, corporations, restaurants, and shopping centers are constantly being developed. This land development is one of the best things for our local economy. Creating new businesses, housing communities, schools, and parks generates interest from all over.

Young families are now looking at Lee County as a place where they can live and work in the lifestyle they want. Being a magnet for young professionals is just one aspect of how the new land development and revitalization benefits our economy. Continuously making improvements to our community creates a sustainable cycle for the next generation to build upon as well.

Community based economic development is the ultimate goal to developing a sustainable Lee County. Understanding the effect that national events have on our economy as a whole is important, however understanding the deeper specifics that affect us locally is a little different. The housing market nationwide took a huge hit. This affected different areas in the U.S. differently.

Here in southwest Florida we were affected more than most. The foreclosure rate in our community was one of the highest in the nation. Working together our housing economy has improved. The market is turning around and we are beginning to heal from this loss. Investing into our community’s development will lead to a sustainable future.

The economy is undeniably linked to the production of goods or services for profit. This is just the beginning. Keeping financial stability and continuing growth is a result of a well-developed sustainable economy. Each individual contributes to the local economy.

Living locally and sustainably is the answer to a bountiful tomorrow.