Make us your home page

Top stories of 2011: Sagging economy

Like a car that keeps stalling, Hernando County's economy had trouble moving forward in 2011. For much of the year, the county had the distinction of ranking consistently low in several key economic areas.

The county's unemployment rate remained among the highest in the state. Housing values continued to plummet. And new home construction, which fueled an economic boom just a few years before, was virtually nonexistent — at its lowest level, in fact, in many years.

In April, the economy even claimed a local bank. State regulators swooped in and closed Brooksville-based Cortez Community Bank, a victim of the poor housing market and the recession.

One bit of good news was that, for the second straight year, the number of foreclosure cases filed in Hernando decreased.

And on the job front, the year at lease ended somewhat better than it began, with the unemployment rate improving from a high of 15.2 percent in January to 13.1 percent in November. Still, the ranking puts Hernando in third place among the state's 67 counties.

Dave Hamilton, operations management consultant for the Pasco Hernando Workforce Board, said that while the numbers don't particularly reflect great news, an uptick in well-paying jobs in the medical field shouldn't go unnoticed.

"That's definitely a plus for the area in this economy," Hamilton said. "I believe it's a trend that will continue well into next year and beyond."

Hamilton, however, admitted that the bulk of the jobs created in the past year were in the service sector, where wages are often lower than average. While owners of restaurants and accommodations have been filling positions recently, he said he was disappointed that holiday hiring was less than expected.

"That tells me that retailers in the area are still skittish about sales," Hamilton said. "The only way that will improve is if the overall economy improves."

In the realm of industrial-related jobs, an economic development program the county launched several years ago to lure small manufacturers continues to pay off, said Valerie Pianta, program coordinator with Hernando's Office of Business Development.

During 2011, the county's Airport Industrial Park saw the opening or expansion of at least a half-dozen manufacturing firms, including Accuform Signs, Dynamic Pharmaceuticals, Airdyne Aerospace Corp. and Micromatic. There could be more good news down the road in 2012, Pianta said.

"Interest in what we have to offer to those types of businesses continues to be very high," Pianta said. "It's a testament to hard work and vision of business and community leaders who decided it was worth the effort."

Hernando's real estate market continued to be a mix of good and bad tidings, with foreclosures driving the market. If you were a seller in 2011, you were likely to take a financial hit. If you were a buyer, there were plenty of deals to be had — especially if you had cash.

According to figures provided by the Hernando County Association of Realtors, 2,314 single-family homes were purchased in Hernando during the past year, with a median price of about $87,000. That's about the same number that sold in 2010, but at lower prices.

Although housing lenders continued to feel the foreclosure pinch, the hurt has lessened somewhat. Foreclosures through December numbered 1,319, compared with 2,186 in 2010. About 50 percent of home sales were foreclosures and short sales.

Hernando County Association of Realtors president Laurie Neiman said Hernando's real estate market still suffers from "a climate of uncertainty," but she believes that things will continue to improve as the county's market inventory of 2,000 homes is depleted.

"We're starting to see prices going up, and that's a signal that the market is easing," Neiman said. "We still have a ways to go, but we are beginning to stabilize."

While sales of existing home are rebounding, the same can't be said for new home construction. Once the county's major economic growth engine, construction peaked in 2005, when 4,185 permits were issued for single-family homes.

Just 150 permits were pulled this year, according to the county's Development Department, reflecting a continuing downward slide that is likely to continue for years to come, experts say.

Hernando Builders Association vice president Chris Glover believes that the banking industry is still hesitant to finance new home construction because of the glut of unsold homes that were built during the boom years.

"I think there are people who still want to build homes," said Glover, whose company, Palmwood Builders, builds custom homes. "But if you aren't able to put down a lot of your own money, it's hard to find a lender that's willing to take that risk. That's just the way it is, and there's not much anyone can do about it."

Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or

Key economic indicators,
2005 to 2011

Permits for single-family homes

Year Permits
2005 4,185
2006 2,787
2007 807
2008 378
2009 161
2010 199
2011 150

Source: Hernando County Development Department

Single-family homes sold

Year Number
2005 4,331
2006 2,708
2007 1,790
2008 1,906
2009 2,314
2010 2,608
2011 2,314

Source: Hernando County Association of Realtors, Multiple Listing Service

Single-family homes median sales price

Year Price
2005 $161,600
2006 $180,000
2007 $155,000
2008 $126,800
2009 $100,400
2010 $98,500
2011 $87,000

Source: Hernando County Association of Realtors, Multiple Listing Service

Foreclosures filed

Year Number filed
2005 529
2006 727
2007 1,897
2008 3,256
2009 3,322
2010 2,186
2011 1,319

Source: Hernando County Clerk of Courts


Year Percent
Nov. 2006 4.4 %
Nov. 2007 6.2 %
Nov. 2008 10.2 %
Nov. 2009 14.7 %
Nov. 2010 15.2 %
Nov. 2011 13.1 %
Source: Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation 2011 indicators based on numbers up to Dec. 30, 2011.

Top stories of 2011: Sagging economy 12/31/11 [Last modified: Saturday, December 31, 2011 2:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. PunditFact: George Will's comparison of tax preparers, firefighters based on outdated data


    The statement

    "America has more people employed as tax preparers (1.2 million) than as police and firefighters."

    George Will, July 12 in a column

    The ruling

    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 08: Conservative newspaper columnist George Will poses on the red carpet upon arrival at a salute to FOX News Channel's Brit Hume on January 8, 2009 in Washington, DC. Hume was honored for his 35 years in journalism. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)
  2. Appointments at Shutts & Bowen and Tech Data highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers



    Retired U.S. Navy Commander Scott G. Johnson has joined Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office as a senior attorney in the firm's Government Contracts and Corporate Law Practice Groups. Johnson brings 15 years of legal experience and 24 years of naval service to his position. At Shutts, Scott will …

    United States Navy Commander (Retired) Scott G. Johnson joins Shutts & Bowen LLP in its Tampa office. [Company handout]
  3. Macy's chairman replaces ex-HSN head Grossman on National Retail Federation board


    Terry Lundgren, chairman of Macy's Inc., will replace Weight Watchers CEO Mindy Grossman as chair of the National Retail Federation, the organization announced Wednesday. Grossman stepped down from her position following her move from leading St. Petersburg-based HSN to Weight Watchers.

    Weight Watchers CEO and former HSN chief Mindy Grossman is being replaced as chair of the National Retail Federation. [HSN Inc.]
  4. Unexpected weak quarter at MarineMax slashes boating retailer shares nearly 25 percent


    CLEARWATER — Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, a boating business leader issued a small craft warning.

    Bill McGill Jr., CEO of Clearwater's MarineMax, the country's biggest recreational boat retailer. [Courtesy of MarineMax]
  5. CapTrust moving headquarters to downtown Park Tower


    TAMPA — CAPTRUST Advisors, a Raleigh, N.C.-based investment consulting firm, is moving its Tampa offices into Park Tower. CapTrust's new space will be 10,500 square feet — the entirety of the 18th floor of the downtown building, which is scheduled to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation by 2018.

    CAPTRUST Advisors' Tampa location is moving into Park Tower. Pictured is the current CapTrust location at 102 W. Whiting St. | [Times file photo]