Florida's economy is expected to hit the $1 trillion mark — about the size of Saudi Arabia's gross domestic product — in 2018, the Florida Chamber of Commerce projected Tuesday.
"It's time to start viewing Florida on a global scale," chamber president Mark Wilson said at the organization's annual economic outlook summit in Tallahassee. So, he said, the state should compare itself less often with neighbors like Georgia and more often with similarly sized national economies like Mexico.
Chamber chief economist and director of research Jerry Parrish said the state is likely to create 180,000 new jobs in the coming year — a pace that would exceed the national economy's in job growth for the eighth straight year. Florida accounts for 5 percent of the U.S. economy, Parrish said, but creates 10 percent of the new jobs.
Still, that's less than the current number of open jobs in Florida, which has a problem matching work with skilled applicants.
"Florida businesses would hire more if they could find the talent," Parrish said.
Parrish also said there's only a 9 percent chance of the state slipping into recession in the coming year. Wilson said the year won't be without risks, so it's critical that state leaders "remain focused on positioning Florida as a leader in global job creation, innovation and economic opportunity."
Hurricane Irma did $1.8 billion in damage to Florida agriculture, University of Florida agricultural scientist Alan Hodges said. Of that, the citrus industry, already reeling from a decade of decline due to citrus greening disease, saw $550 million in hurricane damage. Greenhouse and plant nursery owners sustained $400 million in damage. The hit to the state's economy amounted to a loss of about 55,000 jobs.
Looking ahead, Hodges said sea level rise is "not a popular topic in Tallahassee," but is a reality making itself felt in some coastal areas.
"We could have catastrophic consequences," he told the summit. Sea level rise already is "affecting some high-value agriculture in those areas."
Contact Richard Danielson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times