Thursday, February 22, 2018
Opinion

Column: Over-50s help to power Tampa Bay economy

Thanks to Tampa Bay Times business columnist Robert Trigaux for pointing out that, despite the attention given to millennials, Tampa Bay includes the highest percentage of residents who are 65 or older in the nation. As boomers continue to reach that 65-plus milestone, don't expect the bay area to yield its top spot any time soon.

What's rarely mentioned, however, is that the same features that attract the talent, energy and potential of the millennials will also attract and keep vibrant Florida's huge — and economically muscular — 50-plus population.

As Tampa Bay charts a course toward economic growth, elected officials, economic development experts and entrepreneurs should simultaneously target millennials and also court the 50-plus population.

Here's why:

• OLDER PEOPLE HAVE MONEY: While there are wide economic disparities among the 50 and over population as there are throughout all generations in the United States, older people are much more likely to be financially well off than millennials. Americans aged 50 or older control 80 percent of the wealth of the country.

• GRAY IS GOLD IN FLORIDA: According to a 2015 study prepared by AARP and Oxford Economics, people 50 or older were responsible for 57 percent of all consumer spending in the Tampa Bay region. Statewide, a 2014 study by the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation found Floridians ages 50 and over were responsible for 58 percent of all consumer spending in the state, sustained nearly 6 million jobs and created $429 billion per year in direct, indirect and induced economic impact.

• ACTIVE BOOMERS ARE WORKERS: In 2015, 63 percent of the 50-plus population was in the workforce. They earn more than half of all employee compensation, though they make up about 35 percent of the total workforce.

• BOOMERS ARE ENTREPRENEURS: Florida has long been known as a small business state, and entrepreneurs and startups have long been key to the state's recurring economic booms. What's not as well recognized is that about 15 percent of the 50-plus population are small business entrepreneurs, compared to about 11 percent of the 25-49 age range.

Already, AARP Florida and other organizations are exploring ways to leverage the talents, resources and entrepreneurial energy of the 50-plus population to create the next Florida boom.

On March 16, AARP and Encore Tampa Bay, a nonprofit that encourages older workers to explore "encore" careers, will bring nationally known author and AARP job expert Kerry Hannon to the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg campus to speak on thriving in the new work reality at 50-plus.

Later this year, AARP Florida and Encore Tampa Bay will offer the Caregiver Accelerator, a learning experience for people interested in creating new businesses that can support family caregivers and those they care for.

Would-be entrepreneurs will get coaching on how to put together a business plan, find capital and grow a fledgling business from a good idea. In May, AARP is sponsoring a conference at which entrepreneurs will be able to pitch their business ideas to potential investors. The potential business upside is enormous — Florida already has 2.67 million family caregivers. With tomorrow's longer life-spans, the market for caregiver services is poised for rapid growth.

This year, the oldest boomers turn 70 and the youngest turn 52. Most are still working and many still have children in school. Millennials are still establishing their niche in their career and personal lives. In each generation, Florida can find opportunities for growth and prosperity.

AARP Florida stands ready to work with anyone to build livable communities across the state through the AARP/World Health Organization Age Friendly Network of Communities. Together, we'll build a Florida that welcomes all ages to the sunshine.

Jeff Johnson, AARP's Florida state director, lives in St. Petersburg. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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