Not so long ago, we all just wanted a sign that bad economic times were changing. Every time we thought there were a few possible hints that the worst was over, not much would happen. This went on for too long, and we're far from out of it - yet. But some positive, real signs are popping up and it's impossible to ignore that better economic times are coming to Highlands County.
No, Intel isn't building a computer chip plant nor is Amazon opening a distribution center here, but we're seeing new buildings springing up. Existing businesses are upgrading and expanding, and that's a wonderful sign.
Building permits for commercial property and private home improvements are climbing. No, they are nowhere near what they were before the bubble burst but there's improvement, and we like where that's heading. It means business people are feeling more confident and so are homeowners.
There are several reasons for this, and everyone's still standoffish on making bold predictions, but first and foremost the real estate market has improved. Secondly, people are feeling a bit more optimistic, and that's so much of what affects our economy. If people are worrying about losing their jobs, they don't spend and money flow dries up. Then people do lose their jobs and it's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Our city, town and county leaders are doing a lot to improve the situation. They've cut and trimmed budgets because they've had to, but they are also doing things that hopefully improve the chances for businesses - existing and new.
Taxes have been cut, incentives are provided, fees have been put on hold and just about anything that can be provided has either been offered or is in the works. All of this improves opportunity and changes perspective.
The worst thing that could happen is that we return to the overheated real estate market of a few years ago because it's not sustainable. It would just lead to another bust. But steady growth will do wonders for our cities, towns and county.
When the economy does better, we all do better. Some of the forced cuts in quality of life issues can be returned. Beautification efforts can return that make us have pride in our communities, which also helps lure more jobs to the area.
We're not out of the woods by a long shot, but we're on the way. There's much to feel good about and the false starts we kept seeing for several years are - hopefully - a thing of the past.