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avatarUdut, Kenneth -- on Sep. 4 2007, from Golden Gate Estates, Naples, FL
Founder of this Naples site of NeighborHelp Referrals.

Business and Economy in Naples and Collier County


Simplify3 on Jul. 23 2008 edit · delete
Lagging economy means adults attending college, tech school

By TRACY X. MIGUEL (Contact) 8:48 p.m., Sunday, July 20, 2008

When the economy is low, enrollment at higher education schools tends to shoot up.

And that is the case across Southwest Florida and technical schools.

Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology and Edison College have seen an increase in enrollment in its adult population from people who may be looking to get into a second job, either because they were laid off or fired, or because they may need supplemental income so they want to do another job.

Officials say they suspect enrollment is increasing due to the economy. And it’s not the students fresh out of high school.

“The trend is unemployed people are coming back to school and they are coming back to school in large numbers,” said Noreen Thomas, Edison College’s district executive vice president.

Collier, Lee and Charlotte county campus enrollments have increased about 40 percent of last year’s fall head count with a total of 2,500 full-time students.

“Nearly 40 percent of the students that were enrolled last fall have already enrolled this year for fall and we are not even half way through enrollment registration period,” Thomas said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, 450 students were enrolled at the Collier campus, 1,400 students at the Lee campus, 75 at the Hendry/Glades, 300 at Charlotte campus and less than 300 online students.

Thomas added that other factors might include Florida Gulf Coast University’s cap enrollment, which they didn’t have last fall.

Edison’s Collier campus president Jeff Allbritten said that the college doesn’t collect the data of reasons why students are enrolling, but believes it may have to do with the economy and the college’s great customer service.

Classes at all Edison campuses begin Aug. 25.

It’s a similar case at Lorenzo Walker Institute of Technology in East Naples and Immokalee.

A month away from classes starting, LWIT Principal Jeanette Johnson said the technical school is already seeing enrolment hiking and forecasts a 10 percent increase in enrollment.

Last fall, 500 to 550 students were enrolled in long-term day programs, including nursing and computer system technology programs.

And another 400 students were enrolled in short-term courses, such as accounting programs.

“I want to think it has to do with the economy because more people have been laid off and are seeking a (new) career,” said Dorin Oxender, the principal of the Immokalee Technical Center.

Officials are anticipating full enrollment at the Immokalee site, which has been serving the community for five years.

There has been a strong response to practical nursing program. And is already at its capacity with 24 students.

LWIT’s fall term starts Tuesday, Aug. 19.

Students interested in the school’s new programs starting in January are already signing up, Oxender said.

Among students currently attending LWIT is Tammy DesOrmeau, 37.

DesOrmeau, a mother of two children, ages 4 and 8, who is going through a divorce, decided to get a career in LWIT’s surgical technology program to help her family after not being employed since her children were born.

The once stay at home mother hopes to get a job at a local hospital as a surgical technician once she graduates in August next year. Before having children, DesOrmeau of East Naples worked as a medical assistant.

“It’s really important for me to get through the schooling because it’s everything for me.... for my family,” DesOrmeau said.

Yet it’s not a similar case at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Director of FGCU’s admissions Marc Laviolette said he couldn’t comment about enrollment increase from people who either were laid off or fired, or because they need supplemental income because the university only sees the applications.

In addition, people interested in a second degree wouldn’t be freshmen. And also those numbers are average for FGCU.

He said the increase in enrollment so far has been normal for the university.

FGCU has reached its freshmen enrollments freeze of 1,850 students.

Since it opened, FGCU has seen double digit increases each year.

This year, officials estimate 10,100 students, including both undergraduate and graduate students.

Simplify3 on Jul. 23 2008 edit · delete
Naples businesses doing well despite slacking economy

Business may not be booming in Naples, but it’s not a total bust either.

Although Naples business owners are reluctant to say business is good, some say it isn’t as bad as they thought it would be; in some cases, it’s even better than last year.

For all the for-lease signs in the city’s retail spaces, there are enterprises – from resale shops to mechanics – that are coming out ahead despite economic turbulence.

Naples business Source One Credit Repair is — perhaps predictably — seeing an increase in clients, so much so that three people have been hired since this spring.

That’s a big step up for a business that until then employed two people, but necessary for the fee-based service to keep up with demand.

Source One manager Samantha Canty said that three years ago, the company would get 30 to 50 clients a year.

Now, 75 to 100 people enter the doors of the Naples office every month looking to restore their credit.

She estimates that 60 percent of clients come in with foreclosure issues. The rest are looking to fix credit card problems.

“But usually these go hand-in-hand. When your house is going, credit cards are the last thing they are thinking about, so they let it get bad,” Canty said.

Shopping isn’t a priority for people in financial distress, but selling belongings that are no longer needed or wanted can be a quick cash solution.

Junior Torres, branch manager for the Bonita Springs and Naples offices of online sales facilitator iSold It, a national chain, said business has been better than usual.

For a fee, iSold It provides a way for people to make money by selling items online.

“I don’t want to say it’s just the economy, because we’ve been advertising a lot, too. But summers are the slowest season for everyone, and with that said, the last month or so, the traffic has been unbelievable,” Torres said from the Bonita Springs location.

The No. 1 reason customers share with Torres for bringing in items to sell online isn’t foreclosure, however. It’s divorce.

But linking an economic downturn to heightened divorce rates is largely speculative. While some couples split over financial issues, others postpone separating to save money on rent and attorneys’ fees. Consignment shops are another resale resource, and one local owner reports a mix of ups and downs during the past six months.

“People are really looking for places to bring their things. They like the concept of ‘I have them, I can’t use them, I go up or down in size, and I can get a little money for it,’ ” said Gerry Nichols, owner of New to You, a consignment boutique in Naples that deals in second-hand furniture and women’s apparel.

Clothing sales are on par with previous years, she said, but furniture flies out the door now.

“There are good values in the real estate market, so a number of people are saying that they are purchasing a second home — usually a condo — and that’s primarily the market we serve,” Nichols said.

But there’s no hauling the out-of-tune, never-used guitar, the worn-once designer wedding dress, and the untouched golf clubs the grandchildren bought you to resale shops without a car.

So Naples auto shops are getting a boost from clients looking to maximize their vehicles’ fuel efficiency.

Chet Singh, owner of Chet’s Courtesy Auto in Naples, reports that while car owners are putting off non-critical repairs, more are coming into the maintenance and repair shop for little procedures that can make a difference at the pump, like replacing air filters and keeping tire pressure up.

He notes about a 5 percent increase in business since last year, largely derived from those small tuneups.

“I don’t want to say (the shop) is recession-proof, but we’re staying busy,” Singh said.

Chet’s, known for the bevy of vintage cars parked in front of the gas station along the west side of U.S. 41, also relies on the owners of those cars for revenue.

“Those are the type of people still fixing their vehicles,” Singh said.

To stimulate sales at the pump, he also is exploring offering lower gas prices if customers pay cash, but hasn’t done so yet.

In response to the wallet-draining trips to gas up, one Naples businessman has an influx of customers who want to trade in four wheels for two.

Al Goenner, manager of Western Bike, left the real estate appraisal industry “when the market tanked” and got in on the family business of bike service, rental and repair.

“This summer it’s slowed, but not as bad as previous years. A lot of people are coming in to fix bikes that have been sitting for six or eight years,” he said.

The flurry of foreclosures in Southwest Florida prods some residents to pack up and move out; fortunately for companies in the moving business, even in bad times, people need to haul their belongings.

Peluso Movers owner Adam Johnson said business is staying steady.

The company got off to a slow start early in the year, picked up in the spring and early summer as schools let out, and tapered off again in July.

But the big change in the past year has been which direction the moving vans take.

As an agent for United Van Lines, the company keeps tabs on statewide numbers, and Johnson reports that for every customer moving to Florida, three head out of state.

“Florida used to be an inbound state. … Now we see half a page (of trucks) coming in every day, and three pages of them going out,” Johnson said.

He also notes that last year people moving from Naples headed to Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas; customers this year are destined for their hometowns — in the Northeast, New York, Massachusetts, Texas and Arizona.

The majority of Neapolitans are sticking around through the tumult, but many find themselves frantic for work — either in the form of a second job, or to replace a lost one.

As job seekers turn to temp agencies, and businesses outsource staffing services to trim human resources departments, staffing companies are scrambling to cover their bases.

Tary Kettle, president of hospitality and club staffing firm MasterLink, said that despite the economic crunch, the company has had 8 percent revenue growth in the past 12 months.

One reason is that businesses, by outsourcing staffing, can eliminate the cost of back office and human resources support; paying a service to do this can be more cost-effective than handling HR processes independently.

“It’s totally reversed from two-and-a-half, three years ago when there weren’t enough people in the work force to fill,” Kettle said.

Gary Grant, Naples branch manager for staffing agency Select Staffing, also has noted an increase in business as companies lay off employees and encourage them to register with the firm.

The goal is to find the laid-off workers temporary work until the company can hire them again.

“We’re seeing about five times as many job seekers (a month) as a year ago,” estimates Grant, which is an average of 20 calls a day.

“Almost every conversation starts: ‘I was just laid off’…” he adds, noting that the majority of job seekers are looking for clerical, construction and light industrial work.

When Michael Hilton, one of the owners of Naples-based William C. Huff Moving and Storage Co., felt an economic downturn coming on two years ago, he rethought his business’s target market.

Hilton downsized from a staff of 15 to 10 and aggressively networked and marketed services to higher-income clients, hoping to ride out the economic storm with a more secure customer portfolio.

The move worked, and has kept the business in the black despite a slowdown in home sales.

Much of its business now relies on clients moving from multimillion-dollar homes to lower-priced multimillion-dollar homes, as well as moving items into storage while clients are remodeling.

“In the past six months, the dollar average per move is way up — about a 25 percent increase on the average cost per move. So although the volume of moves is down, we’re getting a higher profit margin on each move. We’re holding our own,” Hilton said.

His five trucks and 10 staff members will be working overtime through July to keep up with demand.

But the nature of the industry is that people only book about a month in advance, so Hilton is unsure what August holds for revenues.

Like every business, he cannot foresee just where the market will take them.

“Companies are going to get weeded out,” Hilton said of the economic slump.

“The strong will survive. If the marketing is appropriate and they are doing good business, they are going to be around.”
Simplify3 on Nov. 9 2008 edit · delete is the economic development council in Collier County.
Simplify3 on Nov. 9 2008 edit · delete
According to:

the stormy weather and the economy are to blame for the drop in Collier County tourism so far.

Economy and Business Business and Economy in Naples and Collier County