There’s nothing like being held hostage by a hurricane to bring a local economy to a grinding halt and, oh yeah, we’re still in peak storm season.

Hurricane Dorian turned out to be much ado about nothing for Florida. It got to The Bahamas and leveled it, but just caused some slight wind and water damage, especially in Volusia County.

It’s easy to point a finger at all the “Chicken Littles” out there and say they over-reacted, but Dorian was just too unpredictable. You still have to prepare and stay vigilant. It’s a pain, but part of the price of living and working in paradise.

Probably the biggest damage from Dorian was it wiped out a usually busy Labor Day weekend for the hospitality industry and curtailed productivity at other businesses. It will be difficult to overcome the lost week, especially with the anemic job growth we were seeing early this year.

Following up on the recent release of the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages for the first quarter of 2019, while wages were up a stellar 3.8%, employment growth was only at 1.6% or 2,835 from the first quarter of 2018.

Of course, we still have to worry about more storms. As of this writing, the National Weather Center was tracking Hurricane Gabriel, which was just spinning around in the ocean and isn’t a threat to land, and two more that might or might not turn into a threat.

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A city that doesn’t get much attention, but has built a solid economic base while maintaining a high quality of life is DeBary. The southwest Volusia city has a population of about 22,000 and continues to attract good employers. The latest is Smart Baking Co., a maker of low-carb, gluten-free products, which is investing more than $1 million to renovate a 50,000-square-foot plant there. The plant will be less than 15 minutes from Smart Baking’s Sanford plant, which has 85 employees. The DeBary plant will initially have 30 to 40 workers.

The effort to bring Smart Baking Co. to Volusia was led by commercial Realtor John Wanamaker of Coldwell Banker Commercial AI Group. Mr. Wanamaker worked closely with DeBary Economic Development Director Roger Van Auker, Duke Energy, CareerSource Flagler Volusia and Team Volusia Economic Development Corp.

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Consolidated-Tomoka Land Co. is really getting diversified with its real estate portfolio. It’s most recent acquisition is Alpine Valley Music Theatre, leased to Live Nation, in East Troy, Wis., for $7.5 Million.

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Just a couple of other items to note. It looks like the Courtyards at Ormond project is getting revived with a plan to build six apartment buildings and a 12,000-square-foot retail building on N. U.S. 1 at Dix Avenue in Ormond Beach. The project looked like it was going to get done quickly, but only a Dollar General was built. Also, for anyone who has squeezed into the Texas Roadhouse in Port Orange there is good news. The popular chain eatery will get a 500-square-foot expansion to its seating area.

Managing Editor Cecil G. Brumley has been tracking business and the economy in Volusia County for more than 22 years. Contact him at cbrumley@hometownnewsmediagroup.com (no hyphens) or follow him on Twitter @cecilbrumley.

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