Commentary: Florida needs a new economic strategy

Florida doesn't have an official state motto. But since the end of World War II its de facto motto has been "C'mon down!" That aptly sums up the official state creed — a belief that the future of the Sunshine State will always be bright and that growth is always good.

Today, that sunny optimism is being challenged by a painful, job-destroying recession that has tarnished Florida's allure. From April 2008 to April 2009, the state lost about 58,000 residents, the first downturn in 63 years. Sure, we're still a nice place to visit, but fewer people want to live here.

Because the state's economy is driven by population growth, some see the decline as heralding a diminished future for Florida, a milestone suggesting that it's all downhill from here.

Only if we let it.

Growth has indeed been the engine powering the economy, with the population growing at an amazing rate of 23.5 percent in the 1990s, nearly doubling from 9.7 million in 1980 to today's estimated 18.3 million. That put Florida at or near the top nationally in population growth, job creation and economic growth.

The state relied on urban development, construction and associated industries to grow its economy. Under this economic model, even hurricanes had an upside. Rebuilding created an economic surge that generated more jobs and more population.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.