Florida Isn't Losing People Like Headlines Say
Surprising stats and commentary by Florida Trend's Publisher
Andy Corty, Publisher
Florida’s population declined last year for the first time in decades. Or at least that’s what’s come to be conventional wisdom.
Reputable researchers said the state’s population dropped. Countless newspapers reported it as “fact.” The governor commented on it. Economic development leaders at innumerable conferences repeated the litany. So we should thank Tony Carvajal at the Florida Chamber Foundation for pointing out that the most recent official statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau say just the opposite. According to the just-released figures from the feds, Florida actually gained 114,000 in population from July ’08 to July ’09.
Here’s how we grew: While it’s true that 31,000 more people moved out of Florida to other states than moved here from elsewhere in the U.S., births outnumbered deaths in the state by about 58,000, and international in-migration brought another 87,000 residents. The net result: Florida gained more than 100,000 people.
That gain came in a bad year. The economy was sour. Houses sat empty. Unemployment hit new highs. And still population grew.
What does this tell us? For one, the state is younger than assumed, as shown by the greater number of births than deaths. Second, Florida remains a desired destination on the world map. And third, last year’s domestic out-migration trend could reverse itself quickly if a recovering economy prompts northerners to resume moving south.
Why does it matter? Well, in this issue of Florida Trend, associate editor Amy Keller describes the challenges facing our elected representatives as they gather this spring for the annual legislative session. Our leaders must do two things at once, namely trim the sails as today’s economic downturn cuts into revenue while simultaneously prepping Florida for the inevitable growth of the coming decades. Amy neatly lists the major issues and describes the advocates lining up on both sides.
Probably each of us has one topic that is close to our heart. For me it’s the question of sales taxes on internet purchases. The current system, which doesn’t tax internet purchases, puzzles me. We’re dealing our local retailers a very tough hand by giving them a 6% price disadvantage right out of the box. Any reduction in local transactions
must of necessity also cut local retail employment. And we’re losing more than $1 billion a year from the state coffers just when we need these funds to invest for Florida’s future.
So if I were a legislator, I would be demanding state action and even federal action to force web retailers to collect the appropriate sales tax and remit the money back to Florida. Certainly the nation’s fourth-largest state has the oomph to make this happen.
While on the topic of “oomph,” once again Florida Trend will spotlight the most influential people in the state. Six years ago Trend took up this topic and selected 174 Floridians. Look for this year’s coverage in our June issue.
We’re not looking for the most famous or the richest Floridians. Instead, we will focus on who carries the most clout to get things accomplished in Florida. We’ll survey many categories — from business to government/politics to education to philanthropy or civic life. I invite your submissions for consideration; with each name please include a brief description of what this individual has done with his or her clout.
Send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Year’s Resolution Update — In early January, I worked out in the gym at the Renaissance Vinoy every other day, but it’s too early to claim success.
— Andy Corty