The “ocean economy”, sometimes called “marine economy” as it is in this article, represents the businesses and jobs directly dependent on ocean and Great Lakes resources. Nationally, the ocean economy employs 3.2 million workers, surpassing crop production, telecommunications, and building construction combined. The marine economy is organized into six business sectors, including living resources, marine construction, ship and boat building, marine transportation, offshore mineral extraction, and tourism and recreation.
In SWFL, our “ocean” is the Gulf, and marine depend employment accounts for a staggering number of the total jobs in Collier County. According to data from the U.S Census and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the number of workers employed by the marine economy ranges from 16,978 to 26,090, comprising roughly 12 to 18 percent of total employment in Collier County. Out if the 402 ocean economies in the United States, Collier County ranks #44 in employment, #55 in number of establishments, #60 in wages and #58 in GDP.
The tourism and recreation sector accounts for an estimated 98 percent of marine economy employees in the county. Within the tourism and recreation sector, hotels and restaurants account for 93 percent of sector employment and 92 percent of all marine economy employment. Data from the U.S. Census suggest that in 2016 there were over 900 establishments supporting the marine economy in Collier County, contributing roughly $954.4 million in GDP annually, and trending upwards each year.
While the marine economy has an obvious positive impact on Collier County and our surrounding regions, the data noted above are an underestimate. Many economic activities that contribute to the marine economy do not fall under one of the six marine economy sectors. For example, U.S. Census data do not capture public administration organizations which are also contributors to the marine economy. Our parks and recreation operations, including the operation of our marinas and other public property management services, serve as one example. Additional industries that depend on the ocean include travel agencies, textile manufacturers who make fishing nets, and specialized freight companies who are involved with boat hauling and other endless examples. The addition of self-employed workers, commercial fishermen being one example, who are not included in U.S. Census data adds upwards of 1,000 additional marine-dependent jobs in the county. Therefore, understanding the full impact of the marine economy requires one-on-one meetings and conversations with business owners and employees in the community in order to supplement the data and get a clearer overall picture of the value of our local marine economy. For the Greater Naples Chamber, that’s an approach our staff takes monthly – meeting one-on-one with business owners and operators to both supplement national or state data and to hear direct from the businesses what opportunities and challenges they are seeing.
Understanding the impact of the ocean economy in Collier County can help the community advocate for initiatives including clean water, improved flood mapping, and ultimately aide in the support of businesses who depend on the Gulf to thrive and continue their contribution to our economy.
Melanie Schmees, Director of Business and Economic Research
The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce