County's economic strength declines
Gary Pinnell | Highlands TodaySEBRING - We're number 445.
Published: August 20, 2012
Published: August 20, 2012
Although the Sebring Microstatistical Area's ranking is better than Arcadia, which is 536, and Wauchula, 557, these aren't the good old days of 2004, when Highlands County ranked 316 in economic strength.
All that's according to Policom Corp., an economics research firm from Palm City.
"The Policom Corporation's economic analysis and rankings provide for an interesting comparison," said Roger Hood, president of Heartland Workforce. "I shared the 2012 report with our economic development partners, hoping they might be able to use the statistics to measure the results of their … job creation strategies, from year to year."
"One factor used to measure the quality of the economy is what people earn," Hood said. "Of the 24 workforce regions in Florida, the average annual wage rate of workers in tri-county region of DeSoto, Hardee and Highlands is the lowest of all, and it has been for several years running."
Policom's rankings reflect that, Hood said, and are corroborated by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Heartland Workforce's average annual wage rate is $29,769, as compared to the state average of $41,574.
Compared to nearby regions, Polk's average wage is $35,656; Manatee/Sarasota, $37,494; Palm Beach, $45,840.
The rankings also base the strength of local economies on the number of jobs, per capita personal income, small businesses, construction, retail industries, welfare and Medicaid assistance.
"We use the stats simply as a way to compare the micropolitan areas in our workforce region with others of relative size. It can help community leaders to recruit or retain businesses," Hood said.
The term micropolitan was created by author G. Scott Thomas for a 1989 article in American Demographics magazine, and was expanded in his 1990 book, "The Rating Guide to Life in America's Small Cities."
The Sebring MSA is all of Highlands County, according to a Census Bureau map. The census has designated 576 micropolitan areas in the U.S., each based around an urban area with a population of 10,000 to 49,999.
The mere fact that Sebring has been designated an MSA is useful to planners, said Pat Steed, executive director of Central Florida Regional Planning Council in Bartow, because it groups verifiable facts that can be used to write grants.
Micropolitan cities like Sebring, Avon Park, Wauchula and Arcadia do not have the economic or political importance of large cities, but are nevertheless significant centers of population and production, drawing workers and shoppers from a wide local area, Hood said.
"The highest-ranked areas were seen as having rapid, consistent growth in both size and quality for an extended period of time," Hood said. "The lowest-ranked areas were viewed as having been in volatile decline for an extended period."
Of the 281 million people who live in the U.S., 232 million are inside metro areas, 28 million are in micropolitan areas and 20 million are outside Core Based Statistical Areas.
A census map of American micro and metropolitan areas shows a mostly blank West and Southwest, but California, the Great Northwest coast, Florida, New England, almost the entire East Coast and much of the Southeast are filled with blue dots.
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