Study offers ideas to boost Carrabelle economy

Published: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 01:52 PM.

It said Carrabelle has a median age of 42.3 versus Florida’s 39.8, and the national median age of 35.6 years. The number of Carrabelle’s youth, up to age 17, is more than 30 percent below the state average and about 40 percent below national average.

The study warns that, as the population grows older, the average income in the city could decline further.

Stantec found the level of education in Carrabelle is well below the national average, with almost twice as many high school dropouts. The number of residents who completed a bachelor’s degree is about a quarter of the national average.

Lyon and Greer suggested the development of career academies within the public school system to teach youngsters skills, such as hospitality, nursing and marine mechanics, that would be useful in local businesses. They also supported partnering with Gulf Coast State College and Tallahassee Community College to the same end. Better preparation for available jobs could encourage young people to remain in Carrabelle, they said.

Lyon said the high percentage of real estate owned by nonresidents poses a problem for Carrabelle. According to the county appraiser’s office, 35 percent of the homes and businesses in Carrabelle are owned by out-of-state banks or individuals, roughly half of them located in Tallahassee. Of the 159 parcels in the corridor along US 98, 110 were owned by out of towners.

“How can you control your economic development when you don’t control your own real estate?” Greer asked. He said nonresident owners are likely to be less invested in local issues.

Zoning also affects development. The study found that a disproportionately large portion of Carrabelle is zoned commercial, especially north of US 98. Lyon said this could discourage investors. The study suggests creating a hospitality district, making it easy for visitors to find lodging, shop, dine and engage in tourist activities like kayaking and fishing. It said the natural beauty of Carrabelle and the surrounding area provides an ideal setting for nature based tourism.

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