By Cecil G. Brumley
The new housing market in Volusia County didn't exactly start off the year with a bang, but a 54 percent increase in January from January 2012 still looks good.
The actual numbers were 57 new houses permitted in 2013 and 37 in 2012, according to the newest report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The improving market is encouraging, but the numbers will have to go up much more for it to improve job opportunities. For example, in January 2004, as the bubble was starting to grow, there were 316 permits issued for new houses and construction employment was at 12,100. January numbers aren't available, yet, but monthly construction employment has been running at about 7,200 jobs.
A side note of the extreme problems caused by the Great Recession is that construction employment peaked at about 15,000 jobs in Volusia County. You lose 8,000 jobs from one sector of your labor force and it's going to hurt badly.
Multi-family construction also hasn't gotten back to any kind of growth, either. There were 9 units built in January in one building compared to 11 in one building in 2012. But with only 93 units built in all of 2012, it is bound to improve this year.
The countdown to the rebuilding of the Publix at Westport in Port Orange is drawing ever nearer. Word on the street is that it'll close just after Easter, which is on March 31. Construction already is underway on remodeling spaces at Westport for China Chef and HIG Insurance. They'll move from the west end, where Publix will be expanded, to the east end. Once the dust clears, Westport should be just about full.
The rapid rise in retail sales slowed in December, up just 2.4 percent, but not because of weak holiday shopping in Volusia. Rather it was the warmer weather. After a cold December 2011, the higher temperatures in December 2012 slowed spending on utilities sharply. Apparel stores also took a hit. They were still up, but just by a small amount as people probably weren't spending as much on coats and sweaters.
Just like new housing, Daytona Beach-based Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. showed improvement. It reported higher revenue for the fourth quarter of 2012 and recorded a net gain rather than a loss. But it's nothing to break out the champagne for. Shareholders probably weren't too impressed with net income of $61,281.
The first new business planned for the Newport commercial subdivision at Clyde Morris Boulevard and Reed Canal Road in Port Orange is a 7-Eleven. It will be interesting to see if Newport resembles the cracker style buildings of developer Buddy LaCour's Gulfstream Village, but that's what city officials want. If you don't think 7-Eleven will go into buildings that look different than the usual brick and glass structures, check out the one at Harbour Village in Ponce Inlet. No word yet on what will go on the other four commercial lots there.
In restaurant news, as expected, the diner at the corner of Nova Road and Reed Canal in South Daytona didn't stay closed long. Hannah's Family Diner has opened in the complex that includes Big Discount Beverage.
Also, the U.S. 1 Restaurant and Grill, formerly Sly Fox Inn, is reopening in South Daytona. Ruzhdi Selmani, who owned the Crossroads Bar & Grill in DeLand, is the new owner and it will be managed by Rick Swaitowski.
Managing Editor Cecil Brumley has been tracking business in Volusia County for 16 years. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.