— Steve’s Marketplace —
Editor’s note: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insight on various topics in Marketplace.
After the relentless pounding of a two-year pandemic, Nassau County is back with vigor, hardly bruised or battered. It’s practically healthy enough to be featured in a fitness magazine.
Actually, our area is featured each month in a compilation of statistics from the Nassau County Chamber of Commerce. The bountiful “Economic Indicators Dashboard” provides information on county population, income, education, business filings, housing, tourism, manufacturing, and other tasty factoids.
For instance, the various statistics reveal that the median household income in the county (for March 2022) is nearly $73,000, the total population is pushing 100,000 people, and the unemployment rate is only 2.2 percent.
The high household income level combined with a low poverty rate are overt signs of economic vitality, according to Chamber president Regina Duncan. “That’s an overall indication of the health of our community,” Duncan says.
There is more. Within the county, the population is fairly evenly distributed between Amelia Island and Yulee and the west side. The number of residents currently breaks down like this: Amelia Island, 36,000; Yulee, 19,000; Callahan, 14,000; Hilliard, 9,000; and Bryceville, 3700. The remainder are in unincorporated areas.
As for new people moving here, the Amelia Island/Fernandina Beach area attracted as many newcomers as the rest of the county. The most newcomers came from Georgia, New York, Virginia and California (in that order in March). And the median price of a house they buy is nearly $450,000 countywide.
“It’s all over the county,” Duncan says about home purchases. And it’s interesting to see the states they’re leaving to come here. “Look at California — it’s consistently more than it’s ever been,” Duncan says.
Many newcomers are over 50 years old, reflective of being pre-retirees or retirees. One of the reasons is that younger homebuyers cannot afford to move here.
The soaring prices extend from Amelia Island through Yulee and particularly around the Wildlight neighborhoods. Yet, even in Callahan, the houses are selling for $500,000 to $600,000 in a new subdivision.
“That’s another trend we’re seeing,” Duncan says. “The wealthy are choosing the west side of the county.”
Meanwhile, tourism is climbing again on Amelia Island, following the slowdown caused by the pandemic. Bed-tax collections increased by nearly 50 percent year over year – from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Bed taxes are collected on overnight stays here. And the occupancy rate is improving mightily, even as more hotels are built.
The costs of nightly stays here are skyrocketing like the temperatures from spring to summer. This nightly rate rose by more than 50 percent year over year. Right now, according to online booking sites, hotel rooms can cost $800 to $1,299 a night here.
There is no shortage of restaurants to service the wealthy tourists and residents here. There are 100 restaurants in and around Amelia Island, with many more opening in Yulee along State Highway A1A. And more are obviously on the way.
New businesses are pouring in here also, many of them smaller, service-industry types. They’re here to provide services to a booming, wealthy population. Meanwhile, the industrial parks in the area are appealing to new industries.
Through it all, the Chamber’s membership has remained strong, vibrant. The Chamber boasts 850 members. This number also reflects economic strength. “And we’re growing every day,” Duncan says.
Steve Nicklas is a financial adviser with a regional brokerage firm who lives and works on Amelia Island. He is also an award-winning columnist. His columns also regularly appear in several weekly newspapers in North Florida, and on his website at SteveNicklasMarketplace.com. He has published a book, “All About Money,” of his favorite columns from the past 20 years. The book is available on Amazon. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or at [email protected]