Housing crisis part 3: employment in Bay County

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - It's been nearly ten months since the October storm but finding affordable housing can be a challenge--something largely shaped by one's income.

In the final chapter of our three-part series on the housing crisis, we look at the state of employment in Bay County compared to the housing situation employers are facing. (WJHG/WECP)

Director of Workforce Services at CareerSource Gulf Coast Maria Goodwin said, "You know, we're hearing about the housing issue from our job seekers. We're also hearing about it from our employers because they're trying to recruit people here for the jobs that they have open."

Goodwin says the average wage per person in Bay County is about $39,000 a year.

"We don't think that we have the pool of workers that we had before the hurricane so I think there is somewhat of a shortage of employees," said Goodwin. Local businesses are feeling the effects.

Johnny Reynolds, partner and general manager for Emerald Falls and Cobra Adventure Park, said, "Staffing has been a problem. A lot of people, I believe, had to move because housing issues and expense and we've had to outsource a lot of our staff to third parties."

Goodwin said, "We have a strong demand for jobs right now. We have kind of construction-related, remodeling, rebuilding work that's going on from our local companies and companies outside of our area so they're all hiring." She added there's also a strong demand for jobs in retail, hotels, and restaurants.

But given the high price of housing, sometimes one job isn't enough.

"What we're kind of seeing more and more is people coming in--they're not necessarily unemployed but they're looking for a second job and we've even helped people that are looking for a third job so they're looking to increase their earnings. That probably plays into some of the cost of living that's going on around here," said Goodwin.

Bay County residents Tom and Cindy Schramek have seen this personally. "With our son we know he doesn't make enough to... without working exceptionally odd hours and every chance he can get he can't do well so I think that's difficult," said Cindy.

Local realtors Bubba McCants and Don Cooley are seeing the same. "The salaries in our area for the house prices that's going on is very difficult for people to purchase," said Cooley.

But they're optimistic.

"Fortunately, at this time the interest rates are historically low and probably gonna get even lower so they're able to get into some housing but I think that's why we're seeing a big increase of these apartment complexes coming on the market. That's gonna help fill our housing need for this area and we also see a lot of contractors come into the area building affordable housing right now," Cooley said.

"I really see Bay County coming out a lot stronger. I think they've got to focus on high-wage, high-skill jobs and I think at the end we're all gonna come out better for it," said Goodwin.

So now that one storm has passed, locals must patiently weather a housing storm.

"I think as time goes on the businesses will come back, open up. Wages are gonna get better so all we can do is hope and pray for it," said Tom Schramek.

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