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Three places in Lee County ranked among ‘Top Boomtowns in America’

A new study says three places in Lee County are booming among the top places in the country. An FGCU economics expert says they are not exactly sure that is a good thing. And locals have also noticed the changes to their homes as well.

In a recent study conducted by SmartAsset, Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers and Cape Coral were all ranked among the top 50 in its “Top Boomtowns in America – 2019 Edition.”

“I’ve noticed a huge change,” said Jennifer Chapman in Cape Coral. “The economy has changed. I don’t know about getting better, but population has grown and increased tremendously.”

Chapman has seen her city at its best and worst. Chapman has lived in Cape for 20 years, and she knows, while the city appears to be booming right now, she’s not so sure that’s an immediate positive.

SmartAsset researchers looked at population growth, unemployment and household income when factoring everything for the top boomtowns.

“It means that there is a lot of cheap money entering the economy nationally,” said Christopher Westley, the director of FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute. “And a lot of it is coming down to Southwest Florida.”

Cape and Lehigh also made the boomtown list back in the early 2000s.

“As it turned out though, there was unsustainable growth,” Westley said. “So, when the bust came, they suffered the most.”

Westley told us one of the problems at that time was that people did not save money.

But a boomtown can be a good thing now if growth is sustainable.

“You want to have interest rates that reflect the market,” Westley said. “And a market interest rate would be higher than the one we’re seeing right now. That would allow for investment to occur but also for saving to occur.”

The study also points out the City of Naples is seeing tremendous growth, but its population is too small to make the list.

Chapman says she’s excited for all the benefits this stage brings.

“It’s making this town much more known,” Chapman said. “We’re getting a big hotel very soon. We’ve never had that before.”

Reporter:Morgan Rynor
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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