October 1st, 2007 1:26 PM by Karyn Smith
Long-term, there is still little doubt that Florida will get more crowded. If the Sunshine State captures even 10 percent of the nation's 76 million baby boomers as they retire -- the huge cohort born between 1946 and 1964 -- its population would balloon from 18 million to nearly 26 million."Florida is continuing to experience growth," said Tim Senter, executive director of the Council for Sustainable Florida, a Tallahassee think tank. "We will surpass New York in the next five to seven years as the third-largest state, if not sooner."So the question might really be: Is the state on the same aggressive timetable as before, or has it slipped into a lower gear?
Meter on, but no one homeThe 1,000-per-day figure is a statistic symbolic of Florida's generally optimistic outlook."Migration into Florida accounts for about 90 percent of growth," says Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.Smith heads the economic team responsible for developing official population estimates for every county and city, backed by a yearly grant from the Legislature.Those numbers become fodder for Tallahassee officials charged with divvying up sales tax revenues, projecting future infrastructure needs, and so on.For the last three decades, for every 100 people moving into Florida, about 50 have moved out, establishing a 2-to-1 ratio of in-movers to out-movers.The other two factors -- births and deaths -- come close to canceling each other out. Florida has around 200,000 births each year and roughly 160,000 deaths."That is pretty small compared with overall growth of 300,000 a year or more," Smith said.Smith backs out his own numbers on the net effect of migration each year by estimating how much population has changed, and then subtracting deaths and adding births."If you consider this ratio of 2-to-1, that means that in a normal year, probably 300,000 people move out of the state," Smith said. "The important thing to keep in mind is that while there are a whole lot moving out, there are twice as many moving in."Florida continues to show very strong growth in employment, and that is bringing more people in their 20s and 30s to the state than retirees, Smith added."In '06-07 there has been somewhat of a slowdown in growth, but the growth is still pretty substantial," Smith said, referring to his preliminary 2007 findings. "By comparison to previous years it is smaller, but it is important to keep in mind that 2003 to 2006 were some of the highest growth years in Florida's history."