Lake County is hosting an international volleyball tournament in September featuring representatives from 35 nations at Hickory Point Beach sand volleyball complex in Tavares.
In the spring of 2014, the county entered into a partnership with the Florida Region of USA Volleyball to hold regional and national volleyball events at the facility.
“Our overall vision is to create a destination volleyball venue that would hold up to international competitions,” said Steve Bishop, executive director and president of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball. “This complex is a game changer. We are getting people to come to Tavares that would not consider it otherwise.”
It is estimated that 400 participants will visit Lake County for the September event, Bishop said.
Since the largest sand volleyball complex in the state opened, it has attracted participants from different cities, he said.
This is just one example of how the economy is thriving in Lake County, according to County Economic Development and Growth Director Robert Chandler.
Tourism development taxes have increased substantially as the number of jobs and annual wages in the county have also gone up, Chandler said.
Our investment into infrastructure and things that matter are going to start paying dividends soon,” he said. “Tourism makes up 20 percent of Lake County’s economy.”
Tourism development taxes were up $2.4 million in 2014, representing a 15 percent increase over 2013, Chandler said.
“Our tourist development taxes are up 7 percent year to date this year,” he added. “We are evolving from a mom and pop to a more mature tourism market.”
Chandler cited an overall improvement in the sports marketplace, particularly in the area of bass fishing.
“There was a study done in the last two years that analyzed the number of bass and the size of bass in 40 of the prominent lakes in Florida,” he said. “Seven of the top 11 bass fishing lakes are in Lake County in terms of the number of bass and the size of bass.”
Chandler said the county is starting to be recognized as a destination for bass fishing. Recently, a number of national fishing shows have filmed in Lake County.
The job market has also started to rebound, according to county officials.
The county’s unemployment rate is down 1 percent from 2014 to 5.7 percent, Chandler said.
“There was also a 3 percent increase in the number of jobs created in the county, with a total of 84,000 created,” he added.
The average annual wage has also gone up 2 percent from 2014 to $34,000, Chandler said.
“Sixty two percent of the jobs added last year were in industries that pay higher than our existing average annual wage,” he said.
Moreover, residential permits have also gone up 80 percent compared to 2014, Chandler noted.
Both tax receipts and gross sales were also up, according to a presentation Chandler shared with county commissioners last week.
Commissioner Leslie Campione said the county was starting to get a return on its investment.
“The bass fishing tournaments in Lake County are a great help to our economy,” she said.
Campione added that it was critical the county continue to be business friendly.
“You constantly have to focus on that particular aspect of your economy,” she said. “You don’t want (businesses) to think you are putting unnecessary road blocks up. What I hope is these other good things offset the downside of the higher cost of doing business in Lake County.”
Read the full story in DailyCommercial.com