Clay women cashing in, saving more than most counties

Study shows local women benefiting from booming economy

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CLAY COUNTY – Women living here benefit more economically than most counties in the state, and their dollar goes much farther.

SmartAsset, a nationwide financial technology company with the aim to provide sound financial advice to people and companies, released a study that showed Clay County women have the fourth largest purchasing power amount in the state.

“Where in the country do women have the greatest opportunity to build savings?” a SmartAsset spokesperson said of the study’s methodology. “To answer that question, [we] analyzed county-level data on female income, tax rates and cost of living.”

That study found the average income of a working Clay County woman to be $40,151. The average cost of living for a Clay County woman is $20,244. That ratio creates a purchasing power of 1.72 at an estimated tax rate of 13.1%.

SmartAsset determined these numbers by looking at the incomes of women working full-time over a consistent period of 12 months. They then used federal and state tax rates to determine the median after-tax income value in Clay County. After subtracting the cost of living, which is made up of food, transportation, housing, medical and other costs, the difference left behind, or purchasing power, represents the money that could be spent or saved.

Numbers are great on paper but are business-leading women in Clay County experiencing the economic benefits SmartAsset’s study declares they should?

Orange Park Mayor Connie Thomas wears both mayoral and private practice hats. When she’s not making decisions with the council or talking to Orange Park residents, she’s working at her private clinical social work office. Thomas believes Clay County’s economy has been on the rise for women for a long time and she only sees that growth continuing to happen in the future.

“I see a lot of women doing well here and being very creative in bringing their business to Clay County and Orange Park,” Thomas said. “You’ve also got women in a lot of significant roles throughout the area. The new [Orange Park Medical Center] hospital’s CEO is a woman.”

Thomas said women bring a lot of uniqueness to a town’s business and that Clay County nurtures women in business quite well. There are many business-forward and company-starting women that meet in groups together to foster relationships that stretch across the county, Thomas said, and these relationships are key to an area’s growth.

Clay County Utility Authority’s Chief Customer Officer Celeste Goldberg agreed with Thomas.

“With regard to Clay County, some of the salaries here are a little lower [than other areas] but that’s offset by Clay County being such a close-knit community,” Goldberg said. “In a professional capacity, we have so many strong resources to connect with and rely on and it makes business in Clay County a lot easier and a lot friendlier.”

Goldberg has been working at CCUA for 23 years and she’s risen through the company’s ranks, which is the foremost customer-facing person in the company. She’s in charge of governmental liaisons, regulatory agency relationships, public relations and anything else that’s customer-facing. She really enjoys CCUA’s dedication to stimulating economic development on top of everything else the company does.

“We’re a prime player at the table,” Goldberg said. “We do what we can to support Clay County’s economic growth.”

Goldberg said in her 23-year span working in Clay County, she’s seen the economy shift from primarily consisting of male-led companies and organizations to a county with more women in leadership roles than ever before.

“There are more opportunities for women in leadership roles in Clay County than at any other point in the county’s history and...I think you’re going to see that continue.”

Amy Pope Wells was a part of that growth. She moved to Florida in 2003 and opened up her first business in 2007 after years in Corporate America. She found success and opened up even more businesses. Today, she’s trusted by the White House Administration to act as a viewfinder for nationwide, regional and local economics.

The Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative is her largest economic project to date and it’s been in the works since 2017. This initiative works to provide 50 million women throughout the world with economic opportunity in three ways: access to market, access to capital and access to networks.

“One thing they’ve learned through this is that when women, in general, are economically empowered, they take all of their money and put it back into family and their community,” Pope Wells said. “This forces a multiplier effect that trickles throughout their community.”

Pope Wells said that economic trickle provides a better economy for not just women in an area, but everyone engaging with the economy.

Pope Wells also works for the Clay County Chamber of Commerce and through specialized business counseling groups just for women, it helps women get their businesses to a point of safety and success. The chamber also works with men and women business owners to help them get their business off the ground and into a profitable place.

“We always tell them: it’s going to be tough but if you stick with it, you’re going to come out successful in this market,” Pope Wells said.

“Every day, we have three choices: go along to get along, stay silent and accept what trickles down or stand up and begin to press forward. Clay County is a good place and it’s positioning itself to be a great place. Not just women, but everybody, need to decide what choice they’re going to make as this county prepares for the upcoming growth.

“Those who want to enter this space have everything they need to succeed in this space.”

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