Collier County's economy appears to be making a comeback, according to data released Wednesday by the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce.
In a survey of more than 200 business leaders, a quarter of whom come from the area's larger businesses:
■ 87 percent say the economy is improving or staying the same.
■ 44 percent said they had added staff to their companies compared to 34 percent last year.
■ While 15 percent said they had cut employment at their companies, this is a reduction from 21 percent last year.
■ Of the 44 percent of business leaders who believe the economy is improving, two-thirds report they have plans to expand their staffs in the coming year.
Over scrambled eggs, crepes and coffee, more than 160 chamber members and guests listened carefully as a succession of business leaders discussed the findings.
The survey found 51 percent of businesses categorized as banks, financial services and insurance increased staff and 59 percent of healthcare also added staff, while 55 percent of governmental entities decreased staff.
Gary Tice, chief executive officer and chairman of the board at First National Bank of the Gulf Coast, sees Collier County's economy heading in a positive direction.
"I'm very optimistic about the future of Collier County," Tice said.
From a banking perspective, Tice said loan requests have increased year over year.
Of the 59 companies that approached lenders for financing needs, 44 were successful, which is nearly a 75 percent success rate, according to the survey.
"I think we should not expect the economy to grow like it did in the early 2000s, but expect a steady pace of growth instead of a rapid pace of growth that we experienced between 2000 and 2006," Tice said.
Tice believes more people are interested in relocating to Collier County, however the area that still needs work is the single-family homes and condominiums sales.
"We are way on our way back to a recovery," Tice said.
"I'm very pleased with what I see happening in Collier County, specifically this season."
When asked if bed tax for those staying in hotel rooms and short-term rentals should be increased by 1 percent, with the proceeds used to promote tourism, more than two-thirds surveyed, or 68 percent, said "yes," according the survey.
Also at the chamber breakfast, a new economic development initiative was unveiled. Dubbed the Partnership for Collier's Future Economy, the program will assist existing and future businesses. It is an alliance of 14 representatives from the chamber, government, private businesses and secondary and higher education.
The program has raised 80 percent, or $104,000 of its $120,000 budget for programs, Naples Chamber of Commerce Chairman-elect Michael Wynn told the crowd.
About 70 percent of job growth comes from existing businesses, Wynn said.
"We need to focus on existing businesses and help them," said Michael Reagen, Greater Naples Chamber president and CEO.
Connect with Tracy X. Miguel at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tracy_x_miguel/