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Economic Hopes for the New Year

By John Hilston

Happy New Year!

With each year’s turn of the calendar comes the ubiquitous New Year’s resolution. Of course, for many, these resolutions don’t see the light of Feb. 1 — or even Jan. 2.

However, for the long-term benefit of our region, it’s important that we ponder some economic New Year’s resolutions.

Clearly, our primary economic identity is the space industry. That’s why we should welcome the attempts of private enterprise to fill the void caused by the end of NASA’s shuttle program and downsizing of the U.S. space program.

A perfect example is SpaceX and its founder, Elon Musk, whose rockets are now carrying supplies to the International Space Station and are in the running to ferry American astronauts to the outpost as well.

Entrepreneurs such as Musk will require labor — often Space Coast labor — to continue building their companies.

Since there is uncertainty surrounding the space industry, we should also focus on one of our other economic engines — tourism.

With the Orlando attractions bringing visitors to Central Florida, there’s no reason we can’t benefit more from theme park tourists’ desire for a few days of relaxation. In fact, I don’t see why we can’t be as big a tourist destination as North Carolina’s Outer Banks.

The key to leveraging our beaches and the rest of our economic advantages is the expansion of economic freedom, which I believe means small government, strong property rights and improved business regulation on the local level.

We can certainly streamline regulations so they won’t be too cumbersome for the individual who’s trying to make a living by teaching tourists to deep-sea fish.

By keeping tax rates low and zoning laws flexible, we can attract and retain these kinds of businesses that turn beach towns into vacation destinations. If tourism expands, tax revenue will increase, even if tax rates are low.

Oh, and did I mention that Brevard Community College will begin offering four-year bachelor degrees this year and is changing its name to Eastern Florida State College to reflect its expanded academic mission?

Yes, I know this is self-promotion. But the additional tax revenue that results from higher business profits can be useful for higher education too as we continue to help students hone the skills they need to compete in the global economy.

Dr. John Hilston is an associate professor of economics at Brevard Community College.