Hernando County Counter-Point: Report on the “Economic Profile & Economic Impact of Mining and Tourism”
By Richard Weisskoff, Ph.D., economist, professor (UM),
author, Economics of Everglades Restoration.
1. There is no economic need for additional reserves or mines in Hernando County at the present time or near future. On the contrary, the latest USGS report, “Mineral Industry Survey, March 2015” writes that cement capacity is in excess; many plants are idle, closing, or operating below capacity. Record volumes were reached in 2005 and recovery since the recession has been slow. New construction is still low in Florida due to the large number of home foreclosures and high unemployment. Florida is the fourth largest producer of cement in the US, and limestone rock is the key input.The most recent information available (USGS, March 2015) shows that construction aggregate sales in Florida fell by 5.8% in the last quarter of 2014!
2. Employment in the Brooksville mine fell from 210 to 122 between 2002 and 2006. Employment in the mine fell by even more in the recession, reaching a low of 71 jobs in 2010. In 2014, the latest government data shows only 81 jobs in the Brooksville mine. (Data from MSHA data file)
3. Hence, expansion of the mine will not be needed for many years. It is estimated that the Florida construction industry will need at least 20 years to reach the pre-recession levels.
4. The County must consider the interaction and conflict between mining expansion and tourist promotion.
- a) Mining involves heavy trucks, noise, dust, conveyer belts, and industrial equipment. Visit the nearby mines, some working, some abandoned, in nearby Citrus and Levy Counties. Drive along the conveyer belt that connects Titan Cement to its mine in the Miami-Dade Lake Belt where white powder covers the remaining trees with a blanket of lime-rock dust.
b) Industrial-scale mining is incompatible with tourism, and the future of the County is with tourist promotion.
c)Tourist jobs, directly, (NAICS category 1026, Leisure & Hospitality) rose from 4,878 jobs in 2005 to 5,265 in 2014 (4th Quarter). Tourism has shown itself to be recession-proof, in contrast to mining. Indirect tourist jobs are double because tourism brings more retail sales, equipment purchases, house rentals, souvenirs sales, etc., in addition to the narrow category of hotels and restaurants counted above. Tourist-related business probably accounts for 10,000 jobs total in Hernando County.
The County must promote and protect the goose that lays the County’s golden eggs for the sake of its own residents and its own treasury.