An Industry with Continued Momentum
For an industry known for its power to heal, the healthcare sector has experienced healthy growth in Brevard County.
In studying the economics of the county’s strongest industries over the past four years, since the end of the Shuttle program, variation in the numbers became the new normal as employees transitioned to new career paths and supporting industries found new avenues for business.
But there has been one industry that managed to maintain its momentum throughout this time period. It’s an industry that held onto its standing near the top in terms of number of employees and average salary. And more than simply maintaining, the healthcare industry grew steadily during this time period.
Prescription for Success
In an area known more for its rocket scientists than those working to keep our rocket scientists healthy, the healthcare industry continues to serve as a major source of employment.
The reason for this growth? A population percentage that has increasingly grown older. From 2001 to 2014, the percentage of residents ages 85-plus has grown by 71 percent. This is a staggering indicator that our healthcare system must continue to grow in order to keep up with an aging population base.
The healthcare field employs nearly 30,000 people in Brevard County. While much of the conversation in business circles often surrounds our growth in the aviation sector, or how strong our manufacturing core is, or even the high-tech nature of many of the companies here, only one industry boasts a higher number of employees than healthcare and it’s none of the ones just mentioned. The only industry to employ more people than healthcare, by a mere 2,000 people, is government.
At the same time, it is these same industries and new companies coming to the Space Coast that are fueling population increases. These new residents in turn require medical care and increase the need for medical personnel.
The story doesn’t end there, though. During this same four-year time period, 2010 to 2014, not every industry experienced healthy gains. In fact, several industries experienced negative growth, rightly so as the community went through a time of transition. Some of our marquee markets, like manufacturing, technology, even the largest employee sector in Brevard, government, all fell into this category.
The healthcare industry built up immunity to this trend and pushed into positive territory, charting a 5 percent increase in employment during this same time period. If you add an extra decade to that number, the industry actually realized a 33 percent increase in job growth since 2001.
What the Doctor Ordered
Healthcare is an important service anywhere in the nation, but its industry impact isn’t the same in every place. The average wage healthcare workers are paid in Brevard County is $54,952. The national average is $1,000 less. The percentage of healthcare workers employed locally is 14 percent above the national average.
A snapshot of the industry shows that there are over 1,558 health care establishments spread throughout the county, 72 percent of the workforce is female, and the largest percentage of workers in this industry are employed as registered nurses.
But the clearest indication of future success lies in the numbers. They tell a story of an industry poised in a prime position for the next era of healthcare. There are just as many workers ages 25 to 34 currently employed, as there are ages 55 to 64. As workers retire, the pipeline is already full of skilled professionals who will be ready to fill the void.
No one knows exactly what healthcare will look like in 10, or even 20 years given the rapid rate of medical advancements. What we do know is that a dedicated workforce of healthcare professionals is already in place to care for whatever ailments or opportunities present themselves across the nation, but especially in Brevard.
Lynda Weatherman is president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.