Cape Coral is booming but residents want more jobs, less commuting

Cape Coral is booming. It’s the eighth most populated city in the State of Florida, passing Fort Lauderdale and Tallahassee.

But Cape Coral residents like Kenny Jenkins, 32, want to know why there aren’t more job opportunities.

Every day, he gets up early to commute to his job in Naples, and the trip can take anywhere from fifty minutes to an hour and a half.

And Jenkins’ commuting situation isn’t unique.

“Everybody I’m friends with works in Fort Myers,” Jenkins says.

As a husband and father of three, Jenkins would love to work in Cape Coral. But he says opportunities are limited, almost non-existent.

“When I lived in Fort Myers, I worked in Fort Myers. When I lived in Orlando, I worked in Orlando. I live in Cape Coral and I worked everywhere else but,” Jenkins says.

His frustration is top of mind for Cape Coral’s Economic Development Manager Ricardo Noguera.

“My ultimate goal is to stop the surge who are crossing these bridges and going into Fort Myers everyday,” Noguera says.

Noguera wants to reach his goal by attracting tech businesses and more traditional office spaces.

One business that is expanding, Mercola. The health supply company is adding 90 jobs with an average wage of $60,000 according the city.

Noguera says a technology company that he can’t name yet, plans to triple their workforce and expand their Cape Coral facility.

DATA: Cape Coral’s biggest employers in 2016

The most recent data available says the city’s biggest employers are the school district, Cape Coral Hospital, and the city.

But Noguera says some of his challenges recruiting businesses are the city’s distance from I-75 and the limited amount of land available for development.

“Ten percent of the land is commercial or industrial. We need more commercial, industrial land here.”

Cape Coral is looking to double that percentage, but says it has ways to go.
They say they put a marginal dent in that in that goal, approving 300 acres of commercial property at a council meeting last week.

As for I-75, FDOT is at the beginning of a five year study looking into a Del Prado interchange as well as other needs.

MORE: FDOT study explores Del Prado direct access to I-75

As for Jenkins, he’s hopeful a shorter commute is on the horizon.

“They’ve got to do better. If Fort Myers can do it, if Bonita can do it, if any other large scale city in the State of Florida can do it, we can do it.”

As for traffic, Noguera says his goal is to densify or create cluster developments; so that people live close to where they work and can avoid using a vehicle.

Reporter:Allison Gormly
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