Have you noticed any new construction in your Florida city, town or neighborhood? Most people
have! Building cranes and new construction sites seem to be everywhere in the state. If you
have the feeling that Florida is a “growth zone,” you are dead right. In the 2020 Census, Florida
passed New York as the nation’s 3 rd largest state.
The pandemic years of 2020 and 2021 have done nothing to slow Florida’s growth; in fact, that
trend has accelerated. Other states looked on with envy as the population influx into the
Sunshine State continued. The current growth estimate (December 2021) tells us that an
average of 1,100 new people move into Florida each day. Over the next year, Florida will add
almost the equivalent of a new Seminole County. This would be impressive under any
circumstance, but it is especially so given the fact that total U.S. growth is the slowest since the
Great Depression of the 1930s.
Why does Florida continue to attract so many new people? Some of the reasons have been
known to us for many years. Florida’s friendly climate and wealth of recreational and outdoor
activities have been drawing people for decades. The state’s lack of income and estate taxes
have long made moving to Florida a solid financial decision. Florida gives seniors’ resources
more legal protection than almost any state. If their retirement assets, such as IRAs or similar
accounts were set up in Florida, they are probably exempt from debt collection efforts and
lawsuits. This includes money invested in stocks and bonds through retirement accounts.
Florida has a variety of lifestyles and community choices, many active adult communities and
very good travel connections. Many small communities offer a slow and relaxed environment as
well as large urban centers like Miami, Orlando, Tampa and Jacksonville. No place in Florida is
more than an hour or two from a major airport, and international connections are available from
cities like Miami and Orlando.
State-wide, Florida’s cost of living is about in the middle of all state rankings, but this is
deceptive. “In places” like Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Naples have relatively high living costs, but
there are also places where living costs are lower. Lesser-known towns like Port Orange or
Apalachicola offer attractive lifestyles for lower costs. The financial publication, Kiplinger.com,
ranks Florida as number 3 in its list of tax-friendly states.
Our state also has a good healthcare infrastructure. Florida’s high number of senior citizens is a
solid customer base for healthcare and medical organizations. Well-known, prestigious
organizations like the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic and M D Anderson now have operations
in the state.
For years, the factors listed above have been drawing people to move here. The pandemic has
made Florida even more attractive, and the state now appeals to a widening base. In the 1990s,
comedian Jerry Seinfeld described Florida as “the place New Yorkers go to die.” In the 2020s, it
is the place New Yorkers come to live and party and go to the beach, fish, play golf and escape
lockdowns. Florida has sun, sea, and has remained largely open compared to other states.
Florida is traditionally associated with retirees, but a new trend is rising as more families and
skilled, young workers move to the area.
Major companies are choosing to expand in or relocate to Florida, and remote work opportunities give people the freedom to choose where they live. Florida’s workforce has been
largely composed of entertainment, hospitality and agricultural employees, but now large
numbers of young technical, financial and professional people are moving here.
So, today’s new arrivals come to Florida for both new and old reasons, but where do they
settle? During the pandemic, South Florida’s “big three” (Dade, Broward and Palm Beach
Counties) took in the largest number of new residents. By one estimate, 19,000 people left
Manhattan to move to the Miami area. However, that area has a bigger base population, and
the percentage growth rate is smaller. The most dramatic growth rates are occurring in smaller
towns and cities, especially in the “I-4 Corridor.” The ribbon of real estate that stretches out 50
miles on either side of I-4, between Tampa and Daytona, is well-known to marketers.
The University of Florida’s Bureau of Economics and Business Research has predicted that
Sumpter County will be the state’s fastest-growing county in percentage increase during each of
the five-year periods through 2045. Most of this growth is because The Villages, a planned adult
community is largely located in the county. Virtually all of this growth is coming from migration
by out-of-state residents.
“The Villages” is a census-designated-place, one of the defined areas that the Census Bureau
uses to compare growth rates. During the decade 2010 to 2020, it was the fastest-growing
population area in the United States. Using 2020 as a baseline, the UF study predicts that
Sumpter County will nearly double by 2045. OurSeniors.Net readers will recognize many of the
Florida towns and cities that grew the fastest in the last twelve months. According to the
economic research website, Strategistico.com, these were the fastest growing towns in Florida
during the past year, listed from number 10, Winter Haven to number 1, Parkland-
Winter Haven, West Melbourne, Winter Garden, Clermont, Ocoee, Bonita
Springs, Fort Myers, Doral, St. Cloud, Parkland.
You may well live near (or in) one of those towns. Wherever you live in the Sunshine
State, you are already in or near a high-growth area. OurSeniors will continue to see all
the benefits and challenges that growth brings.