On Surrounding Local Areas Dr. Mark A. Bonn

Economic Profile of the Area Surrounding Wakulla Springs

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Economic Profile of the Area Surrounding Wakulla Springs

The thrust of this report is to identify the direct economic impact visitation to natural springs has upon those specific counties associated with natural springs. In this chapter, we examine the impact Wakulla Springs has upon Wakulla County, Florida. It is important to look at the economic setting in which the spring exists. Table 3.1 shows some relevant economic statistics pertaining to Wakulla County.

Table 3.1

Population, Income, Per Capita Income, Jobs and Earnings Per

Job in Wakulla County, Florida Relating to Wakulla Springs State

Park, 1990 & 2000

Rank Among 67 Counties




in 2000

Population Growth

Wakulla County









Aggregate Income Growth (Thous $)

Wakulla County









Per Capita Income Growth ($)

Wakulla County









Wage & Salary Job Growth

Wakulla County









Average Earnings Per Job ($)

Wakulla County











Wakulla County is not densely settled compared to Florida. This county has 39 persons per square mile compared to 303 for Florida as a whole according to the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida (2001). Thus, this area includes a relative abundance of land compared to people which is very conducive to park expansion. Wakulla County contains not only the developed and undeveloped areas of Wakulla Springs State Park, but also the Apalachicola National Forest.

In terms of temporal changes in economic variables in Wakulla County, the resident population has expanded from a little over 14.4 thousand in 1990 to a somewhat shy of 23 thousand at the turn of the century (i.e., 2000), a 59.5% increase as shown in Figure 3.1. As with many Florida counties, 90% of the population growth is due to in-migration to Wakulla County rather than the natural increase (i.e., births minus deaths of the resident population). Also, being on the Gulf of Mexico, this county has witnessed a great deal of residential development on the coast. This is especially true near Crawfordville, the largest city in Wakulla County. The median age of Wakulla County is 36.7 years compared to 38.8 years for the State of Florida which indicates that this county so far, has not attracted just retirees, but young workers as an ingredient of its industrial structure which will be discussed below. Of special note, population in Wakulla County has grown at a rate of over 2.5 times that of the State of Florida (i.e., 59% versus 23.2%). Although part of this growth may be explained by starting at a low base in 1990, most of the growth is based on open space coupled with relatively inexpensive land which has not only attracted new residents to the State of Florida, but people from Southern Florida which has become increasingly congested. See Bell and Bonn (2002) for a discussion of these factors. In Table 3.1, notice that we have also placed the ranking of Wakulla County economic variables relative to the other 66 counties in the State of Florida on the right hand side of this table. For example, Wakulla County’s population is 56th out of 67 counties meaning its relative population is very small.

Aggregate personal income in Wakulla County has increased by 151% over the 1990 through 2000 period compared to a much slower growth for the State of Florida as a whole of only 72.4%. Compared to the State of Florida, Wakulla County has been growing at a faster rate of growth in population and also in income per capita. The growth in income per capita for Wakulla County rose from $14,303 in 1990 to $22,556 in 2000, a nearly 58% increase compared to only about 40% increase for the State of Florida which is shown in Table 3.1. In 1990, Wakulla County’s per capita income was only 72% of the state average; however, by the year 2000, it had grown to a little over 81% of the state average. Thus, the industrial base of Wakulla County is growing more and more toward higher paying jobs relative to the State of Florida. The faster rate of growth of this county will also raise wages. Therefore the rate of growth in the demand for labor in this county exceeds the demand by the state. As was true of population, wage and salary employment increased by nearly 70% over the last decade reflecting this rapid rate of growth as shown in Table 3.1. Although somewhat lower than the State of Florida average earnings per job, Wakulla County has narrowed the differential from 20% to about 10% over the 1990-2000 period reflecting a more rapid rate of growth in this county than experienced by the State of Florida. This can been seen at the bottom of Table 3.1. The more rapid rate of growth in population, income and wage and salary jobs and wages per job in Wakulla County is reflected in the nature of the industrial structure in the county.

The industrial structure of Wakulla County is dominated by Leon County to the north which is the Capital of Florida. Over 43% of the personal income generated in Wakulla comes from commuters using this county as a so-called “bedroom community”. Although leveling in recent years, State of Florida government employment has grown from 1990 to 2000. Such state employment contains a number of high paid jobs such as those working at FSU, FAMU and Tallahassee Community College. In addition, Wakulla County had over 23% of its employment in manufacturing compared to only 8.3% in Florida as a whole. This manufacturing employment is concentrated in food and kindred products; paper and allied products as well as chemical and petroleum commodities. In Florida as a whole, manufacturing jobs paid in 2000 were about $41,920 per year while non-manufacturing paid were about only $30,900, or 35.7% less. The largest private manufacturing employer in Wakulla County is General Dynamics (Saint Marks Powder Division) with 275 employees (Florida Chamber of Commerce, 2002), which manufactures large caliber ammunition and propellants under government contracts. However, the wage structure in Wakulla is pulled down by employment in commercial fishing, forestry and tourism.(e.g., Wakulla State Park Lodge and Springs) which typically are low wage industries due to low skill levels demanded and, in the case of tourism, the part-time nature of employment.

Table 3.2 illustrates some of the other socioeconomic aspect of Wakulla County that is important in ultimately evaluating the economic importance of Wakulla Springs State Park. Because of the more rapid rate of growth in employment, the unemployment rate has been well below that of the State of Florida as shown in Table 3.2. Note that the participation rate in this county is nearly 3 percentage points above that of the entire state indicating that the labor market in Wakulla County is especially tight and has induced more people to work. This is in stark contrast to Columbia and Suwannee Counties discussed in Chapter Two. For the Ichetucknee Springs State Park, we argued that “disguised unemployment” or a slack labor market is very indicative of this area. If we are examining a county in terms of adding jobs through the location of state parks to the tourist sector, then it would appear that the area surrounding Wakulla Springs would benefit more in terms of “job needs” than the Wakulla Springs area. Of course, the location of a springs state park is dictated more by the location and characteristics of natural resources than by rural economic development needs. That is, the rural economic development needs of an area through the addition of jobs via the creation of parks would be heavily qualified by the location of the natural resources and whether such resources provide a significant attractant to visitors to Florida and its regions. The per capita income and growth in Wakulla County has helped to reduce the poverty rate in the county. Such a rate is much lower in Wakulla County than the State of Florida.

Finally, the general welfare of a county can be measured in terms of unemployment and poverty rates, but the bottom line is to be found in the relative level of per capita income. Being at or above the state average with respect to per capita income will reflect a somewhat higher “quality of life.” Individuals can debate what factors determine the quality of life, but our emphasis is upon being employed with a relatively high level of income flowing to individuals in an area. More narrowly, we may be defining the economic quality of life, but at least we have defined what we mean by the concept as used in this report. At the bottom of Table 3.2, we see per capita income broken down into its important components. It should be noted that many counties throughout Florida have a high quality of economic life by working less than the State of Florida average participation rate. Such residents do not live off their labor, but their possession of capital such as bonds, stocks and rental housing. Collier and Palm Beach Counties in South Florida have such a high amount of capital per individual, that this elevates their per capita income even with an average level of earnings from labor. For example, individuals may choose not to work (even though they have skills in the medical or engineering fields) due to their relatively large ownership of capital assets. In Table 3.2, per capita income is broken down into all labor earnings, capital income (i.e., Cap Inc) and transfer payments.

Table 3.2

Socioeconomic Characteristics of Wakulla County, Florida

Containing the Wakulla Springs State Park, 2000

Rank Among 67

Counties in Florida

Recorded Unemployment Rate


Wakulla County






Labor Force Participation Rate*


Wakulla County






Poverty Rate (% of Population)


Wakulla County






Components of Per Capita Income ($)


Income From ($)

Per Capita ($)


Cap Inc

Trans Pay

Wakulla County










* Percent of population in the county between the ages of 15-64 who are employed.


This exhausts the flow of income to an individual. All labor earnings (i.e., income from work to all that work including sole proprietors) per capita in Wakulla County are about 2% higher than that for the State of Florida. However, income from capital is much lower in Wakulla County than that statewide. People tend to be younger in Wakulla County as discussed above and also have a higher percentage of the population between 15-64 who works (i.e., participation rate). Residents of Wakulla County fall less into the retirement category and more into the category where individuals are at the beginning phase of their work/life cycle. Per capita “capital income” is only about 40% (i.e., $2,763/$7,005) of the statewide average in Wakulla County. Finally, transfer payments comprise the third component of per capita income. Transfer payments are composed largely of retirement income, unemployment compensation and other forms of personal aid (e.g., Medicaid). In Wakulla County, there are less individuals in retirement (i.e., less retirement income); more people employed (i.e., lower unemployment rate) and more income from earnings to avoid needed transfer payments from government. While Florida has a high ratio of capital to individual (i.e., they have accumulated assets for retirement) and a high percent of the population in retirement (i.e., more retirement income), Wakulla County is really an opposite picture for the population whom depends more on wages than on retirement income. Against this economic backdrop, we shall evaluate the relative economic importance of Wakulla Springs State Park to surrounding political area called Wakulla County.

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