When Florida emerged from the 2008-2009 recession, the phrase cautious optimism was often a platitude. One phrase that might best sum up the economic outlook for the region, and the state, in 2022 is a little different, but still rather sunny: counterintuitive optimism.
This is because many business owners and executives, although they are not immune to many obstacles – Omicron, supply chain, inflation, etc. – think Florida is the place to be for next year. And beyond. It comes as the northeastern and midwestern states brace for more possible lockdowns from COVID-19 and a continued population exodus.
Cameron Mitchell, founder and CEO of Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, a Columbus, Ohio-based chain with some 40 restaurants nationwide under 18 brands and concepts, is a leader in the parade of counterintuitive optimism. RMC opened Del Mar Naples on Fifth Avenue South on December 21. The two-story, 9,000-square-foot restaurant, at the heart of Naples’ eclectic dining scene, replaces CafÃ© Lurcat and Bar Lurcat. And in late 2021, the company announced plans to open The Pearl, a restaurant, tavern, and oyster room, in Water Street Tampa sometime in 2022.
âFlorida has been very good to us,â said Mitchell, on a Zoom call in mid-December from his Columbus office as light snow covered the ground outside. “We want to continue to grow in Florida until 2023.”
Mitchell says that may include the Sarasota market, eyeing the highly anticipated Quay development. In Tampa, CMR’s Ocean Prime Tampa at International Plaza is one of the company’s top performing restaurants, he says. There is also an Ocean Prime Naples, next to The Inn on Fifth on Fifth Avenue South. âThe Naples market is booming,â says Mitchell. âWhen we signed the lease for Del Mar, we didn’t even know what the concept would be, we just knew it would be a dynamic location. I am as excited about this place as I am any restaurant we have opened.
Mitchell’s positive outlook on the region is not an isolated case of trust. From an executive in one of the state’s busiest seaports to the CEO of an advertising agency to a real estate developer, expectations for a robust, if not dizzying, year 2022 abound. (See pages 7-13 for more.)
This confidence is also shared by some of the state’s top economists. Florida TaxWatch, for example, in its 2022 Economic Preview: Settling Into the New Normal, reports that official state estimates project that gross state product (GSP) will increase 4.5% in 2022. It will fall then to a “more characteristic growth rate of 2.5%”. over the following years, âadds the report from the non-profit and non-partisan tax policy watchdog and research organization. “Above-Average GSP Growth for (2022) is a testament to the huge decline in economic activity that occurred early on, pent-up consumer demand, and Florida’s open-for-business strategy “, says the report.
This open-to-business approach resonates with Mitchell, a longtime restaurateur who founded CMR in 1993 with a guest philosophy that “the answer is yes.” What’s the question? âMitchell’s optimism isn’t blind either, along with the level of indigestion required about all of the standard 2022 challenges: hiring and retaining employees on what he calls a “excruciating” job market; potential menu price increases due to rising costs; a myriad of COVID-19 variants; and more. “That too will pass,” Mitchell says. “If it were easy, everyone would. “
Even as obstacles and roadblocks multiply, several businesses in the region are boosted for a solid year. Click on the links below to hear from companies from various industries.