Up Front - The Publisher's Column
Everyone interested in the future of Florida should pay special attention to numbers just released by the U.S. Census Bureau. It reports that the nation’s population grew by 0.7% over the past year to 313.9 million as of July 1, 2012, and it projected 315.1 million residents at year-end 2012.
Florida’s growth was not so modest. In fact, over the year mid-2011 to mid-2012, Florida gained 235,306 residents — that’s a 1.2% rate — to register 19.3 million. By year-end 2012, Florida should have reached about 19.5 million, forecasters have projected. The growth of nearly a quarter-million people in one year was the third-largest gain behind Texas and California.
I never believed the myth that Florida depopulated during the great recession of 2008-10, but I’m simply stunned by this amount of growth. Even more astounding, the Census Bureau projects this quarter-million per year growth to continue in Florida year after year for the next decade and beyond.
Where did last year’s growth come from? Florida now has a “natural increase,” meaning more births than deaths, completely opposite the conventional wisdom that only elderly folks move here. In fact, we had 34,126 more births than deaths in those 12 months. Then we have migration. On the domestic side, 101,411 more people moved into Florida than out, while both California and New York had migratory losses. And we gained 99,386 people from other countries, more than 10% of the nation’s total.
What do these numbers mean? For one thing, Florida is poised to pass New York as the third most populous state. If current rates hold, Florida will be No. 3 by the end of this year. Because of the ravages of Hurricane Sandy in the New York region, the date could come even sooner. Soon after, Florida will surpass 20 million population, possibly by the end of 2014. By the time the next Census rolls around, Florida will boast some 21.5 million residents and gain a couple more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
To put this in perspective, Florida had fewer than 10 million residents as recently as 1980 — that’s well within my business lifetime.
These are startling numbers that have been well advertised, but perhaps not well understood, with major implications for both public policy and business. Housing, roadways, water, health care and retail all come to mind, as well as the pressure on agricultural interests and environmental needs. There’s no doubt developers know these trends as evidenced by the tract homes, apartments and condos once again under construction. Just take a look at our eye-opening piece on page 54 about private equity investors grabbing up single-family homes throughout Florida.
Add to that mix the ways our population is changing. We know the nation is aging with more older Americans and sharply more “oldest old” who are 85 years or older. But it’s not well accepted that the United States is becoming a more diverse nation and by mid-century will be “a plurality nation where the non-Hispanic white population remains the largest single group, but no group is in the majority.” Florida is a poster child for these demographic shifts.
We can’t put our heads in the sand. These numbers are reality. We need to prepare now for the larger, more diverse future of Florida.
Please turn your attention to editor Mark Howard’s column about Bill McBride. We have lost a friend.
This issue also includes special coverage of Florida’s small businesses.
Personal note: Santa must already know about diversity. He did indeed place the Rosetta Stone under the Christmas tree. My first sentence: El hombre está volando en el avión blanco a Miami. Well, it’s a start. Happy New Year.
— Andy Corty