Jacksonville Paychecks to Fatten

Article excerpt

Jacksonville families, whose incomes once trailed most of the

state, may become dramatically wealthier in a job market that

will boom for the next 15 years, say researchers studying

If their prediction proves true, the average Duval County

household will earn nearly $72,000 by 2010, a 27 percent jump

over last year. The increase is in addition to any change caused

by inflation.

Among Florida's biggest communities, Jacksonville's earnings

would be second only to Palm Beach County, where household

incomes of $101,000 are forecast.

Jacksonville's own development may help drive a part of that

increase, said David Lenze, an economist with the University of

"There's more congestion, higher crime, the cost of living is

more," than in smaller communities, said Lenze, who helped write

the bureau's annual statewide economic forecast. Higher wages

help compensate people for those hassles, and can be necessary

in larger cities "in order to attract the quality of worker

that employers want," he said.

That type of financial boost could have far-reaching

consequences for the city, in neighborhoods ranging from upscale

new subdivisions to aging inner city areas that want money to

redevelop.

"If that materializes, it couldn't help but benefit us," said

Celia Miller, president of the Myrtle Avenue Neighborhood

Improvement Association. "Whatever affects the city affects us,

for good or for bad."

Her neighborhood north of LaVilla is working with city housing

officials on a plan to build and sell new homes around a rebuilt

Durkeeville housing project. Miller said higher incomes citywide

could give a relatively poor area like hers a better chance of

developing into a balanced neighborhood with more middle class

residents.

The predictions are based on population and business trends

locally, as well as national trends in key industries, Lenze

said. He said forecasts for Northeast Florida drew heavily on

employment trends in manufacturing, military service levels and

the insurance and finance industries.

Jacksonville could also be cashing in on a relatively young

work force. Over the next 15 years much of the city's working

population will be moving into middle age, when incomes normally

peak, Lenze said. By contrast, some South Florida communities

will make relatively little progress financOeially because their

large retiree populations have pensions that, at best, just keep

with inflation.

The income increase would be a marked turnaround for

Jacksonville, which has typically lagged behind most of Florida

in income. Even in income estimates for 1995, Duval County fell

slightly below the state household average of $57,355. …