SmartAsset analyzed 500 of the largest cities nationwide to determine the biggest 'boomtowns' in the nation.
Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers are "boomtowns."
The three areas in Lee County cracked the top 50 list of boomtowns in a new study by SmartAsset, a New York financial technology firm.
Although it's seeing growth too, Naples — in neighboring Collier County — didn't make it on the list. It's not considered in the study, due to its smaller population.
To determine the rankings, SmartAsset analyzed 500 of the largest cities nationwide.
What metrics were used? Researchers looked at changes in population, unemployment and household income, as well as the growth in businesses, housing and GDP — or economic output.
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"Cape Coral, Lehigh Acres and Fort Myers stand out for strong growth in both their population and number of local businesses. All three cities have top-50 rates in these metrics out of the 500 total cities analyzed," said A.J. Smith, personal finance expert and vice president of content at SmartAsset, in an email.
While SmartAsset has done similar studies, the company used a new methodology for the latest one.
"We've analyzed boomtowns in the past," Smith said. "Most recently in 2017, but this year's findings are not directly comparable."
Cape Coral weighed in at No. 22 on this year's list of boomtowns. Meanwhile, Lehigh Acres ranked 29th and Fort Myers 41st.
Why did Cape Coral rank higher than the other two areas in Lee County? In large part due to the city's housing growth (+6.64%) and income growth (+18.19%) over the past five years.
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In 2017, Cape Coral ranked as the No. 1 boomtown on SmartAssets' list, using the old methodology. That ranking was largely due to a big influx of new residents and the growth in the area's GDP from 2012 to 2016.
Florida cities and towns dominated SmartAsset's top 10 list of boomtowns in 2017, with eight areas making the cut, including Largo and the Palm Coast.
In 2019, only one city in Florida made it into the top 10 — Miami, weighing in at No. 4.
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The top three boomtowns for this year are Longmont, Colorado, followed by Denton, Texas and Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Rounding out the top five is Greeley, Colorado.
Here are some of the key findings from this year's study nationwide:
1. Cities and towns in Colorado, Texas and South Carolina dominate the top 10 rankings
2. No cities in the Midwest or Northeast made it on the list
3. Some boomtowns are outpacing the pack, including Greeley and Round Rock, Texas
Jim Wall, communications director at CareerSource Southwest Florida, which matches job seekers with local employers, noted that eight of the 10 boomtowns in 2019 are anchored by medium-size public universities and colleges. He said that's no coincidence in an era of "helicopter parenting," with children more closely tied to the family's purse strings and Gen Z heading off to college
"College towns that have reasonably mild weather patterns, more affordable housing and an education that does not cost in the upper six figures seem to be booming," he said.
Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres, he said, are especially attractive because they offer more affordable housing in a great climate. Students also have access to a handful of universities, colleges and trade schools in Southwest Florida.
"In Southwest Florida, we have seen a trend of children leaving the area to pursue careers, but after achieving a certain level of professional experience returning to the area to be closer to parents," Wall said.
In general, he said, younger generations seem more willing to relocate for career opportunities and better weather.
On top of that, parents are leaving the Midwest and other areas of the country where weather is much harsher, to be closer to where their grown children have found career opportunities — and where they can spend more time with their grandchildren, Wall said.
The reason for SmartAsset's report on boomtowns? It's designed to identify areas of prosperity and robust development.
"We hope this analysis inspires people to think about what is important to them and what these metrics mean for their personal financial situation," Smith said. "For people looking to start their own business, identifying a place with a thriving business scene can be particularly important before settling down."
Likewise, it could help families who want to grow their income reach their financial goals. For example, families may want to "lay down roots in a place where incomes are on the rise," Smith said.
Earlier this year, Lehigh Acres topped WalletHub's list of fastest-growing "cities." Although it's not technically a city, it's a census-designated place, making it eligible to compete for a spot on the national list.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, also ranked nearby Fort Myers at No. 6 and neighboring Cape Coral at No. 9 on its growth-centered list.
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For the rankings, WalletHub compared 515 areas with varying population sizes based on 17 metrics, from population growth to unemployment, over seven years.
Naples is not included in WalletHub's survey either, due to "sample size," according to Diana Polk, the company's communications manager.
The three areas in Southwest Florida stood out in WalletHub's survey based primarily on their population growth
In that study, Lehigh Acres had one of the highest population growth rates in the country.
Here are the Top 10 boomtowns, according to SmartAsset:
1. Longmont, Colorado
2. Denton, Texas
3. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
4. Miami, Florida
5. Greeley, Colorado
6. Newbraunfels, Texas
7. Denver, Colorado
8. Charleston, South Carolina
9. North Charleston, South Carolina
10. Round Rock, Texas
This story originally published to news-press.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the new Gannett Media network.