Southwest Florida, specifically Lee and Collier County, is an area worthy of recognition on multiple fronts, be it agriculture, the environment, its demographics, or its economic potential. As such, it is for these reasons Representative Byron Donalds (R-FL) has introduced a resolution calling for the appreciation of the area it deserves.
Rep. Donalds' resolution provides an immense amount of data showing just how much Lee and Collier County have to offer since their establishments in 1887 and 1923, respectively.
Collier County, he noted, has 80% of its land dedicated to preservation, and both counties contain multiple habitats and ecosystems, home to dozens of flora and fauna, including the endangered Florida panther. Moreover, Lee and Collier County are home to several state and national preserves, such as Big Cypress, the Everglades, Collier-Seminole, and Charlotte Harbor.
The two counties are no slouches economically, as the resolution notes that their respective populations are exploding. By 2050, Lee County's population will see a 31.3% increase, while Collier County will grow by 22.7% that same year. Additionally, they have the 16th (Lee) and 20th (Collier) highest-grossing GDPs in Florida, both having grown by over 9% since 2021. Furthermore, Lee and Collier County accounted for a combined $1.03 billion in exports during 2021.
By its demographics, Lee and Collier County have seen a massive increase in their population receiving college degrees, both seeing a rise of nearly 40%. 22,148 also call the two counties home, with just over 31,000 having served in the Vietnam Era and 3,408 of the last surviving World War II veterans (Veterans' Advantage estimates there are approximately 167,000 veterans still living in 2023).
Agriculturally, both counties have a combined 1122 farms, with most of them being smaller (less than 100 acres), yet have produced nearly $300 million in agricultural products, whether in crops or animal-based. Collier County alone was the 7th-highest producer of citrus fruit in 2021-2022, while Lee County was 13th.
Clearly, Rep. Donalds takes great pride in the areas he represents. It's important to note that Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, who represents a portion of Collier County, cosponsored the legislative measure.