By Cecil G. Brumley
Whenever I get too optimistic about the area business climate, which is difficult to avoid when you live in the area of Port Orange that I do, I take a drive around the area.
The empty storefronts, vacant offices and large swaths of failed to develop land quickly remind me how far we fell in the Great Recession and how far we've got to go. Ormond Beach has been especially moribund with little new construction. Daytona Beach was hard hit with all the big projects that have been left to dust. Throughout Volusia County there are some especially bleak sights.
But I live in an area of Port Orange that shows there is promise of better days. At the end of the road I live on, there's a large construction project that includes a road extension and a BJ's Wholesale Club. I also live not far from The Pavilion at Port Orange, which continues to grow.
There are other reasons that you can't help but think we're going to get better. Despite the decline, Volusia Mall is still more than 90 percent occupied. There are several hotels on the beachside that are getting rebuilt. Downtown Daytona Beach keeps getting new shops and restaurants. And Speed Weeks is here.
But it's going to take some time before we get enough momentum going to see widespread prosperity. There are still way too many people without jobs and not enough new jobs to attract a lot of people to the area. However, 2012 showed improvement and, so far, 2013 is looking up. In January, 1,858 workers applied for unemployment benefits, down from 2,164 in January 2012.
As expected, after a decline in November bed tax collections, December showed a big jump, due probably more to some lodging operators paying their taxes late. Countywide, collections were up about 11 percent, way more than you'd usually expect in December. A better way to look at is how well fall tourism did as a whole. From October to December, bed tax collections were up 6.3 percent, marking a successful season.
Sparton Corp. continues to do well and its DeLeon Springs plant along with it. The company reported $65.79 million in revenue and $4.4 million in net income for its quarter ending Dec. 31, but up sharply from the same quarter of 2011. Also, the U.S. Navy has just awarded another $10 million for the DeLeon Springs plant to build sonobuoys, the company's underwater detection devices.
Brown & Brown Inc. also keeps humming along, racking up big gains in the fourth quarter and for 2012. Its fourth quarter revenue was up 24.1 percent and net income was up 16.8 percent. For the year, the insurance seller and employee benefits manager hit $1.2 billion in revenue as it started its march toward $2 billion.
Worksmart MD, a medical billing service, is moving to a bigger, 7,650-square-foot space in Tomoka Commerce Center in the northeast quadrant of LPGA and Williamson boulevards, according to Buddy Budiansky and Ron Frederick, Realtors with Prudential Commercial Real Estate FL who brokered the deal. Worksmart owner Meyers Industries Inc. did have the service in a space half that size at Cornerstone Executive Park in the southwest quadrant of LPGA and Williamson.
The new Hampton Inn on Flagler Avenue in New Smyrna Beach recently had its big open house. It was hard to believe that a 112-room hotel could get squeezed onto Flagler Avenue, but the developer did it and now it provides a major upgrade to one of county's busiest tourist thoroughfares.
Managing Editor Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking business in Volusia County for 16 years. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.