Each year, Orlando is moving to Florida.
Let’s quickly clarify. A recent story on National Public Radio states that 250,000 new residents, or a number the size of the population of the city of Orlando, are moving to Florida annually. For comparison, imagine the state of Wisconsin absorbing annually into its economy as many new residents as currently reside in its capital of Madison.
The U.S. Census Bureau ranked Orlando (238,300) as Florida’s fifth largest city in 2010. The latest official census does not include newer residents. So the population within Orlando’s city limits is actually closer now to 250,000. And obviously, there is a much greater population in the Orlando metroplex than resides within its city limits.
The report also states that the vast majority of new arrivals will consist of Baby Boomers and retirees. In some cases these two groups are synonymous; in others, not. Either way, newcomers will add wear and tear to state-maintained highways, avail themselves of public education opportunities, and stress our state services in a variety of fashions. Municipalities will require larger police, fire and public safety forces to accommodate this growth.
In South Walton, we are no stranger to this type of growth and the challenges to local infrastructure and services that accompany it. The recent surge in development and traffic along Highway 30A is a classic example.
What’s the big deal? According to Danielle Kurtzleben of U.S. News & World Report, Florida was tied for ninth with Oregon in 2012 for the largest budget shortfall among U.S. states.
Florida is a regional economic prototype of the financial challenges that face the U.S. as our population ages. In a nutshell, this means more retirees that contribute less significantly to GDP, but who rely on government programs and services.
Protecting tourism is paramount for Florida’s economy, unique among American states. With an estimated 90 million visitors a year, Florida is the largest tourist destination in the world (official state website). The industry has a $67 billion impact annually here, a number that is about twice the total GDP of Vermont. Oil spills here carry grave economic consequences.
In 2012, Florida’s economy grew at its fastest pace in the last six years. Floridians, financially crushed by the decline in home values, are now seeing those values slowly escalate again. Our ability to manage this economic rebound with sound fiscal planning is vital to Florida’s future.
We hope our new neighbors will grow to love and care for it as we have, and to contribute to its GDP while utilizing its services. For us, it is home.
As the late John D. McDonald wrote of Florida in 1986, “Tacky though it might be, its fate uncertain, too much of its destiny in the hands of men whose sole thought was grab the money and run … it was still my place in the world. It is where I am and where I will stay …”
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC, AIF, a syndicated economic columnist, chartered financial consultant and accredited investment fiduciary, is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, a fee-only registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin. Arbor Wealth specializes in portfolio management for clients with $250,000 or more of investable assets.