LEE COUNTY, Fla. - It's hard not to notice that businesses are flocking to southwest Florida. And, they're coming from all over the country bringing new jobs and new flavors.
The latest is Wawa, a popular convenience store chain from the northeast. The first one is coming to Colonial Boulevard and Fowler Street in Fort Myers. Groundbreaking is set for Tuesday at 10 a.m.
Wawa, based in Pennsylvania is just one of several national companies making southwest Florida home. In just the last year, we've welcomed new restaurants from other states like Wisconsin and Georgia and they say it's for good reasons.
"I couldn't have asked for a better start for us here in southwest Florida," said Brett Hull-Ryde, Blue Moon Pizza Director of Operations.
Two months since it opened, Blue Moon Pizza on College Parkway in Fort Myers is settling in well at its very first location outside of Georgia, its headquarters. So well, they're actually looking to slice up more pies in Naples and Cape Coral.
"The property rates in south Florida are still very favorable," Hull-Ryde said. "That's an important piece of any business decision. But, we also have a great labor market down here. Great demographic."
Blue Moon Pizza isn't the only spot seeing the dough on the rise in southwest Florida. Names like Culver's, Zaxby's and Wawa are setting up shop, bringing new flavors from around the U.S. And, it's not just for the sunshine.
"Unemployment has come down," Economist Dr. Gary Jackson said. "We are down to about 6.1% so that's a good thing. In addition to that, tourism has been really strong."
Jackson, who is also Director of the Regional Economic Research Institute at FGCU says the area finally began to recover from the recession in 2009. Now, it's about growth. And, people are willing to spend.
"I think Fort Myers has been exploding since we've been here," Don Donnelly said.
"I feel like people are willing to take a risk on this area," Darleen Loef said. i"I feel like it's growing again. We are rebounding and I think it's a great place to try a restaurant."