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Heidi Rambo Centrella

There was a time when Southwest Florida was nothing more than a blip on the radar for the masses. It was a well-kept secret where a select section of the population retreated for relaxation, rejuvenation and respite from winter temperatures. Traffic was all but nonexistent, land was plentiful, and time slowed down in what tended to be known as paradise. As with all good things, word of the somewhat-secret land spread.

In not too many decades, the sleepy region so many of us now call home has seen astronomical growth, with no signs of slowing down. There is no crystal ball to foretell Southwest Florida’s future exactly, but indicators abound from real data to unprecedented price tags.

According to figures from the Lee County Economic Development Office, Southwest Florida has a population of about 1.4 million, an increase of 21.5% since 2010. From 2020 to 2025, the population is expected to increase by another 12.3%. Figures like this affect every square foot of the combined communities.

Already compromised health care systems (partially pandemic-related) are expanding to accommodate the population growth (pg. 44), especially considering many residents are age 55-plus. Additions and expansions of service lines, treatment options and technology also are driving growth at local hospital systems, many of which are purchasing vacant land on which to expand. But those land buys are a mere drop in the bucket when it comes to overall commercial real estate transactions, especially in the past couple of record-setting years.

In 2021, land sales, residential sales and commercial sales were off the charts, as real estate brokers juggled to keep pace with demand. Whether residential or commercial, demand far outpaced supply, driving never-seen-before prices (pg. 30). Residential real estate inventory sank to a new low. New company headquarters entered or expanded within the market. National behemoth companies purchased large once-snubbed acreages on which to build new warehouse and distribution centers. All this activity begs one simple question: What’s next?

As we gain solid footing—hopefully—in 2022, the answer remains anything but certain. But we can assure you that Gulfshore Business remains dedicated to its consistent and complete coverage of every business dealing in our communities. We’re committed to keeping Gulfshore Business “Southwest Florida’s Best View of Business.”

Cheers to a healthy and hearty new year that, given all indicators, will up the ante in 2022.

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