By Jay Revell
There’s never a cobbler around when you need one. At least that seems to be the case here in Tallahassee. Recently, I tried to take a pair of leather shoes in for what I thought would be a quick repair. I stopped in at one of our local shoe fix shops and was helped by the courteous owner. He told me the fix for my shoes was no problem and would only take a half hour to do. However, he regretted informing me that the wait time for that service was six weeks. My jaw dropped when he shared why.
The aging cobbler shrugged his well-worn hands and said, “There’s just not enough folks doing this kind of work anymore.” He then went on to tell me how there’s only a couple cobblers offering these services and 300,000 people with shoe problems. It was the kind of anecdote that keeps amateur economists up at night.
As I left the shoe repair shop with my embattled soles still in hand, I started to think about other similar supply and demand issues that I had experienced in Tallahassee of late. Before long I had a lengthy list.
In recent months I’ve experienced long waits and limited availability for a wide range of needs. They include home repairs, restaurant reservations, doctors’ appointments and car maintenance. I’ve heard similar anecdotes from friends and family around town. These experiences bring the word “shortage” to mind.
Obviously, there might be some lingering effects from the pandemic, but I think there is a bigger problem at hand. Tallahassee needs more people offering more services. It’s a theory that was somewhat confirmed at a recent Chamber of Commerce forum.
Last month, the Greater Tallahassee Chamber hosted their annual Economic Forecast meeting. The featured speakers were both from the Florida Chamber of Commerce including their lead economist. He shared a slide focused on our state’s job markets. According to his research, on average in the State of Florida, there are a 100 job openings for every 66 people looking to work. Here in Leon County, filling a vacant position is even more difficult. Currently, for every 100 job openings there are only 38 people looking to work.
Having a low unemployment rate is usually a good statistic, but right now we need more slack in the system. In the same presentation, there was evidence suggesting that our local growth rates pale in comparison to other communities in Florida. Anyone with a passing understanding of economics will know that lagging growth married with an undersupply of workers will yield lower service levels and higher prices.
That doesn’t have to be our destiny though. Our community needs to prioritize increasing the supply of goods and services. We need more people, more homes, and more companies that can serve the needs of our neighbors.
To achieve this, we must adopt an abundance mindset. As we look for ways to solve the challenges of our time – poverty, homelessness, crime, and other difficult hurdles, we should seek to create abundance as a means for combatting the stress points in our economy. This work begins by asking important questions about the policies that govern our community.
The best way to build abundance in our economy is to prioritize policies that make growth easier to achieve. Tallahassee should be a place where ambitious people of all ages and backgrounds can come to build a life, a business, and a better community. That won’t happen if we make it hard to do so.
Florida is one of the fastest-growing states in America and our city deserves to benefit from that trend. Instead, we often delay, debate, and ultimately lose out on growth and job creation. As costs for goods increase and the availability of services remains stagnant, it’s clear that these outcomes will become unsustainable.
I know there are many who believe Tallahassee has already grown too much for their liking, but when you restrict growth, you also restrict innovation and opportunity. Every time our community drags out a development decision, adds another fee, or raises taxes we are also placing barriers to growth. All that time and money adds up and the sum is not to our benefit.
Instead of making growth difficult at every turn, we need to establish a pathway to an abundant future through policies that promote opportunity. If we don’t, the economic outlook we face in Tallahassee will be expensive, exclusive, and excruciatingly painful for those who struggle the most. Not to mention we’ll all be frustrated by those long wait times for services.
Believe it or not, we can grow our community, increase services, and enhance our character all at the same time. Other cities seem to so why not Tallahassee? That approach is our best bet for meeting the demands that are present in Tallahassee today. I’d also argue it’s the only means for building a more prosperous tomorrow. Recent experiences and community conditions suggest we need to get started sooner rather than later. In the meantime, does anyone know a good cobbler?
Jay Revell is President of Revell Media – a boutique branding and marketing agency based in Tallahassee. He can be reached at email@example.com
Only 2 cobblers in business…Capital Shoe Fixery on S. Magnolia, just past Lafayette St. and Johnson’s on Maclay Blvd.
As soon as the Chamber, and others, start attracting companies to Tallahassee that can offer people CAREERS instead of jobs, a lot of these employment issues will diminish. Our problem in Tallahassee is how everyone, including the media, get all excited when a new chain restaurant, car-wash, mattress store, hotel, marijuana dispensary, chicken or hamburger joint announce their opening. These kind of businesses offer JOBS, many of which only pay minimum wage. Most people stay in their job for a short time and then move-on when a better paying offer comes their way. For those that choose to work hard to graduate or develop a specialized skill, they advance from their JOB and start planning and developing their CAREER or business idea to better themselves.
Maybe some day our Chamber will wake-up and start concentrating on what it takes to bring careers to the Tallahassee area instead of jobs.
Jay, get real man! There’s a lot higher number than 38 looking – they’re just not looking and living off others.
I think a lot of workers desire working from home in their jammie pants, 4 day work weeks and using their personal pronouns. College students want free tuition with no math or science course requirements. I’m not optimistic the new generation is capable of protecting our great country.
The Chamber’s death grip on our local government and the scandals that have attended it has given Tallahassee a bad reputation that drives business away. People and firms see the insider dealing and don’t think they’ll get a fair shake.
Maddox-era “pro-business” (really just protectionist of a few big developer interests) policies and personnel are still running the show and still have a majority in local gov.
The real way forward to to clean house at Blueprint and City Hall. Reform is painful for the status quo, but to move our community forward we have got to.
There is a city commissioner who owns a real local business and won by a large margin last year. We would do well to heed him.