Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Economy, Version 2012 #2

I was out running errands on the north side of Orlando around the 436/434/I-4 Altamonte section. I had to swap out some supplies at Florida Hospital up on 434, turn in some paperwork with my accountant off Lee Road, and make some final Father's Day returns with Kohl's up at the intersection of 436 and 434. It was at the last errand at Kohl's that I found these three small defunct businesses in the general vicinity. Right next to Kohl's was what appeared to be a Mexican restaurant. From the outside it still looks fairly new and well kept. According to the sign it's a "fully equipped restaurant." (Note: I do not work for the company trying to lease this building, nor will I get some sort of commission; I just happened to see this empty building sitting here.)

In the same parking lot, next to the out-of-business restaurant sat this defunct restaurant. I have no idea what used to be here, but the oval sign looks like a Fazoli's or Donatos. The only problem with calling it a former Donatos is that the Donatos buildings were very distinct, square, and brick. And all of the former Donatos have been converted into other businesses. By the look of the exterior weathering this place has been empty for quite a few years. There wasn't even a "For Lease" sign on the property.
Finally, on the way out from the Kohl's shopping area I spotted this California Burrito Express. This had to have been a recent closure, as the signage was still up. The interior looked clean enough to where it could be opened and back in business within a week.
Barack Obama likes to campaign about how small businesses "are the backbone of America's economy."  From what I've seen since 2009 around Orlando and continue to see, the backbone is pretty broken. Part of the problem is planning. Within less than a block there are three restaurants that are essentially service industry small businesses. Two of them appear to be former Mexican food businesses. There's only so many ways you can serve any given ethnic food before it all just looks and tastes the same. And the cost of eating out keeps going up, while folk's incomes remain static or disappear entirely due to layoffs.

These three buildings are the only empties I saw within this block. As I looked at the other shopping centers I saw more empty store fronts. I didn't bother to photograph them because it wouldn't have added to the store one way or another. If you want to check my facts you can always drive up there and look around. But the majority of the buildings I've documented as empty over the last 3 1/2 years are still sitting empty. Even some of them that were converted have gone out of business again.

We've got a problem here in Orlando and in Florida in general. We've got an economy that depends too much on service industry and too much on sales taxes that fluctuate wildly. We've had Republican governors for the last 12 years, since Jeb Bush was first elected in 2000. After over a decade of Republican stewardship (Jeb Bush, Charlie Christ, and now Rick Scott), we're far worse off economically today than when Jeb first took office. We can't blame this on Washington. The blame for all of this rests squarely in Tallahassee and on Florida in general for electing them in the first place. These empty small businesses are the most visible sign of the problem, and they seem to be growing worse, not better.

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