County shows income growth

Ramon Rios | @RamonrSrpg | 850-623-2120 | rrios@srpressgazette.com

MILTON — Financial technology company SmartAsset has released a study that shows Santa Rosa County ranks number nine in the state for median income growth. The information is part of the Most Paycheck Friendly Places study the company recently completed .

SmartAsset calculated the annual growth in median income over five years for each county and indexed the results. Data comes from the US Census Bureau 2016 5-year American Community Survey.

What does this mean to county residents? According to the study a medium average household brought home 1.6 percent more money during the past five years.

"Typically, it creates buying power for disposable income," Santa Rosa County Economic Development Office director Shannon Ogletree said.

Ogletree agreed with the study's findings. There has been a 2 percent population growth and county building officials estimate 2,500 building permits this year, according to Ogletree.

"Santa Rosa County is the place to be," Ogletree said, "with great schools and low crime."

"The growth is reflective of a strong national economy," Commissioner Sam Parker said. 

Parker said Navy Federal's expansion increased growth. Roughly, 20 percent of those employees live in the county.

The EDO released their first Economic Development Strategy plan outlining objectives, goals and recommendations for the next five years in February. In that plan, the county identified five core targets that will help diversify the county's economic base as well as build on areas of strength according to the plan.

Those target industries are the following:

  • aviation and support services
  • business services
  • distribution and logistics
  • agriculture and marine research
  • health services research and technology

Some core targets have started with recent Triumph awards to Pensacola International Airport of $56 million and $8.5 million for the Whiting Aviation Park.

There is also a community development target in the EDO economic plan - quality of place and asset development. This target's goal is leveraging the area's strong quality of place to attract and retain skilled workers.

This is a concern for Parker. With the rapid growth of the Pace area there is a need for better infrastructure he said. The county has not increased its property tax rates in 27 years — and dropped them twice, once in 2001 and again in 2008, according to the county's 2017 budget. The county also maintains one of the state's lowest millage rates at 6.0953.

Parker has recommended the BOCC go back to citizens and ask for another half-cent increase to the local option sales tax bringing it up to one cent.

"In ten years that would bring in $160 million for projects," Parker said. No action has been taken on this recommendation.

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