Things are going bizarrely well in Port St. Lucie and Fort Pierce, where I lived and worked for a mercifully brief period in 1993. It’s hard to believe the area is all that different from when I was there, but there has been the undeniable sound of two shoes dropping since I left.
First was a New York Times piece -- a front-page article, no less, in the Jan. 21, 2002, edition -- focusing on Port St. Lucie because it “has had the fastest growing economy in Florida, and Florida has had the fastest growing economy in the United States ... In the last year, as the nation's economy lost more than a million jobs, Florida gained 138,000 jobs, a 1.9 percent increase that is higher than in any other state, according to the Labor Department in Washington. In the Port St. Lucie metropolitan area, which includes Fort Pierce to the north, jobs have increased 4 percent.”
Now, according to a piece this month by real estate columnist Kenneth R. Harney, “The top appreciating housing markets now include an unexpected leader: Fort Pierce-Port St. Lucie on Florida’s booming Atlantic Coast. Average prices there jumped 14.7 percent in the last 12 months, and at a torrid 18.2 percent annualized rate during the last quarter.”
Be that as it may, I can tell you that the region provides exactly three points of interest:
There is no fort, and no port;
Zora Neale Hurston is buried here (in Port Fierce, also known as Fort Pus);
The day after graduation, all the high school girls are mysteriously married, unhappy and the mother of two (and twins are on the way).
So why is the area so hot? One theory is that people can’t afford to buy in the Metro Boston area and are thus being forced to the, um, suburbs. Another is that, as the Times noted, the area is experiencing an economic miracle! Here there be jobs! And many pay $7 an hour! For anyone who wants to be a grapefruit picker or telemarketer, Fort/Port is Mecca. But they fry their salad and think the natural state of theater is that it occurs with dinner and lite beer.
(As a post script, I acknowledge that it would be a little more obvious to write today about the post-9/11 world. I’m counterprogramming. I wrote yesterday about the Bush 9/11 dote-udrama, though, and without even realizing the significance of the timing. Still, to all those disappointed 9/11 fans, I apologize.)