Treasure Coast businesses hit hard by COVID-19 thriving

Regional Economic Development Summit reviews latest economic trends
Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-25 17:42:10-04

STUART, Fla. — The latest numbers in Florida out today show unemployment in the Metro West Palm Beach area dropped to 3 percent, as the labor force increased by 3 and a half percent.

Those statistics served as the backdrop as business recruiters, and business owners got together in Stuart on Friday to look ahead.

Like most business owners, restaurateur Kyle Greene had to pivot when he was shut down two years ago.

“We were selling toilet paper, we were selling bottles of water, we were selling dried pasta, we were selling prepared meals,” said Greene.

But as the state reopened, customers returned in force.

“We came back roaring," said Greene. "Last year was a record year for us.”

Greene was on hand at the Regional Economic Summit for the Treasure Coast in Stuart.

Hosted by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, it’s the first time in five years leaders in business and education from Palm Beach through Indian River Counties have gathered together.

“We are updating our comprehensive economic development strategy,” said TCRPC Executive Director Thomas Lanahan.

Lanahan says this event is seed planting.

“We’re in a pretty good place but we can do better,” he said.

There has been a lot of building on the Treasure Coast recently, with warehouses cropping up in St. Lucie County, and some businesses thriving during and post-COVID.

“We’ve seen marine industry do remarkably well, the outdoors which the marine industry is part of. Manufacturing has done very well,” he said.

While many of the states’ business headlines have been encouraging, Lanahan says there are things to monitor when it comes to growth to make sure the entire populace benefits.

“Traffic issues, housing affordability which is an issue nationwide, across the state and is a severe issue in this region,” said Lanahan.

Greene says the growth trends have been good for his business.

“The majority of our guests I speak to say, ‘Oh, this our first time,’ or ‘we’re looking to buy a house,’” he said.

In fact, he’s expanded to now own four restaurants, with 300 employees.

“I felt there was enough growth here to support the growth of our brands,” said Greene.

A survey of hundreds of Treasure Coast businesses last year showed nearly two out of three suffered negative economic effects from the pandemic, so the recent pendulum swing has been welcomed in the business community.