One of the goals and primary focuses of the CEP from its inception has been to raise the wage level in our community. From our initial 5-year strategic plan (Moving Forward), one of the three BIG goals has been to not only attract new jobs but jobs which pay an average wage which is 15% higher than the county average. We evaluate every project we are working against this measure and we ask local government to only incent those businesses and jobs which will meet this standard.
The Census Bureau and various other economic entities provide a variety of ways for us to track this growth. The primary metric we use is the Average Weekly Wage as reported in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. Today, the average wage which is required for us to incent a project is over $42,000/year. This is a 27% increase over the initial target wage. Our AVW has grown nearly 9% in the last two years which is nearly triple the state average.
To put in regional perspective, in 2012 the average weekly wage in the Ocala MSA (Marion County) was 90% of the that number in Gainesville, 87% of Tallahassee and Lakeland, and 95% of Daytona Beach. Using the latest year end numbers, the Ocala MSA is now 95% of Gainesville, 92% of Tallahassee and Lakeland, and 102% of Daytona Beach. In other words, while these communities have seen their AVW grow, ours has grown more quickly.
Another way to track this is per capita income. In the latest year available, the Ocala area per capita income grew by 2.4%. This is 50% faster than the US average and more than double the Florida average.
A final measure and the newest to be released in Median Household Income. Many economists and statisticians prefer medians over averages to balance out the extremes. From 2016 to 2017, the Median Household Income in the US grew by 1.8%. In Florida it grew by a more robust 3.4%. In Marion County, it ballooned by an incredible 11.5%!!! This is a truly remarkable number. When compared against our ten benchmark cities (similar size communities from throughout the Southeastern US against whom the CEP measures a number of stats), this growth ranked #1.
The CEP is committed to continuing to grow wages and opportunities in our community by focusing on businesses and jobs which contribute to this growth. We will continue to aggressively attract businesses which support this effort; proactively seek to retain and support existing businesses including our dynamic healthcare sector; encourage entrepreneurship; engage businesses with education to ensure students have the skills necessarily for these opportunities; and partner with local government so we have a business climate which supports all these efforts.
The mission of the CEP is to be the catalyst for a prosperous community. By partnering together, we can keep this community Moving Forward!