By Cecil G. Brumley
With the holidays over, it's time to get down to some serious business, as there are hopes the Volusia County economy will continue to improve in 2013, providing more opportunity for everyone wanting to get a job or start a business.
The year does begin with workers' paychecks taking a 2 percent hit with the Social Security tax holiday ending. But overall, the federal government hitting the breaks before going over the cliff should have little impact on the Volusia County economy.
All the statistical information shows the county's economy was on too much of a roll to get bogged down. Retail sales and sales of existing houses have been steadily going up and the latest Census Bureau report shows builders started 50 houses in November in the county, up from a measly 26 in November 2011.
At some point this year, the unemployment rate nationally will decline enough that the Federal Reserve will start easing interest rates back up, but that means the economy nationally and in Volusia County will have strengthen enough to keep the modest growth we've experienced at a steady pace.
In the what-goes-around-comes-around category, Larry Fornari has bought the Beachside Motel, 3309 S. Atlantic Ave., Daytona Beach Shores, from Ishwar Naran for $1.58 million. Naran got the hotel, along with the adjacent Palm Plaza (now a Holiday Inn Express) from the Bray & Gillespie bankruptcy sell off. Fornari sold Palm Plaza and Beachside Motel to Bray & Gillespie for, wait for it, $10.92 million and $4.68 million respectively.
Another empty building is getting some use. Unfortunately it left an empty building behind. Airgas has bought the former Sears warehouse and repair shop at 840 Bill France Blvd. for $630,000. Airgas is doubling the amount of space it has from its site on South Nova Road in Ormond Beach, according to Buddy Budiansky and Ron Frederick of Prudential Commercial Real Estate Fl, who represented the buyer. The seller was Warmack-Muskogee L.P., represented by Paul Partyka with NAI Realvest. The Nova site is a prime location, though, so it probably won't sit empty for long.
Apparently Martin Marietta Materials, no relation to the one that bought the General Electric operation in Daytona Beach and moved it to Orlando, hasn't given up on its plans for a road materials plant in DeLand. The company has bought a big chunk of land along West New York Avenue (S.R. 44) for $3.26 million. Neighboring property owners had successfully fought off the company's plans before the Volusia County Council, but the company sued.
In restaurant news, construction has started on a new Dunkin Donuts at 3140 Howland Blvd. in Deltona while remodeling has started to turn the old restaurant building at 1610 S. U.S. 1 in New Smyrna Beach into a Beef O'Brady's. Also, the little Lakeview Diner at Nova and Reed Canal roads has closed.
A little more detail has emerged on Gator Investments redeveloping the old Kmart Plaza, now renamed Daytona Plaza. The Hibachi Grill has already opened in the main part of the strip center while work has begun on the GFS Marketplace next to Kmart. The big change will be the company's plans to demolish the McDonald's and rebuild it next to the Wells Fargo Bank. In its place will be a new building that includes a drive-through Starbucks.
Passenger traffic continued to rise in November at Daytona Beach International Airport. It was up 5 percent from November 2011 with 43,666 passengers using the airport. Spin forward to this month and the airport has gotten a couple of extra US Airways flights on Saturday while the rest of the flight schedule remained the same with four Delta Air Lines flights and three US Airways flights.
The number of workers seeing unemployment compensation remained below the previous year in December at 1,694 compared to 1,829 in December 2011. It's not a great improvement, but about par for the course for Volusia's labor market in 2012. Similarly in the second quarter of 2012, annual wages were up slightly to $34, 724 from $33,858 for all of 2011, and average monthly employment was at 150,625, compared to 149,146 for all of 2011, according to the recently released Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, which is based on employers' unemployment insurance premiums payments.
Associate Managing Editor Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking business and the economy in Volusia County for more than 15 years. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.