BEBR

What Is Florida’s Fastest Growing Florida City? It Depends.

Publication Date:
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
  • Scott Cody, M.B.A

“What city is the fastest growing in Florida?” is a question often asked by reporters, students, and others. And the answer is simple: it depends.  Births and deaths, migration, annexation or de-annexation, are among the things that cause city populations to change.  However, the answer to the question depends first on the answer to another question: “What time span are you looking at?”  Are you looking at growth in the most recent year, or since the last Census or some other time span?  A one-year horizon is more current than a longer span, but can also be less accurate for making inferences to the future.  A one-year estimate compacts all the error of an estimate including data error and extraordinary events.  Use of a longer time horizon spreads out that error and may give a more accurate, but less timely estimate of growth.  The City of Worthington Springs provides a good example of the difference a time span and special event can make.  Between the 2013 and 2014 estimates, a Census correction to the city’s 2010 population significantly increased the 2010 population.  The percent growth from 2010 to 2013 was 116% before the correction and after the correction the 2010 to 2014 percent growth was only 2.7%.

Let’s say your time span is the time period from the last Census to the current year estimate date.  Using Bureau of Economic and Business Research data, that span would be from April 1, 2010 to April 1, 2014.  So which city is the fastest growing in Florida from 2010 to 2014?  The answer is still not totally clear without answers to the following two questions:  Are you interested in percentage growth or are you interested in absolute growth?  Are you looking at all cities (Weeki Wachee with a population of 5 or Jacksonville population 846,421) or at cities of comparable size?

There are two measures of population growth—percent change and absolute growth.  Percent change is the population change from the base year to the current year divided by the base year population.  A city that grows from 50 people to 55 people grows by 10% [(55 – 50) / 50 x 100 = 10%].  Absolute growth is simply the population change from the base year to the current year [(55-50 = 5)].

The list of the fastest growing cities from 2010 to 2014 based on percent growth will contain a significantly different list of cities than the list based on absolute change.  Only the City of Doral makes the top ten list for both percentage growth (Table 01) and absolute growth (Table 02).  The fastest growing place based on percentage growth is the City of Lake Buena Vista in Orange County at 120%.  The fastest growing place based on absolute growth is the City of Miami with an increase of 28,599.  However, Lake Buena Vista grew by a grand total of 12 people and Miami grew by only 7.2%.  Based on percentage growth, Lake Buena Vista grew at 16.7 times the rate of Miami but Miami added 2,383 times as many people (28,587 more people) than Lake Buena Vista added.

TABLE 01. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2010 to 2014 Change 2014 Estimate 2010 Census
1 Lake Buena Vista 120.0 12 22 10
2 Sweetwater 50.7 6,846 20,345 13,499
3 Freeport 39.2 701 2,488 1,787
4 Marianna 29.5 1,801 7,903 6,102
5 Gulf Stream 24.6 193 979 786
6 Groveland 20.8 1,817 10,546 8,729
7 South Miami 16.9 1,966 13,623 11,657
8 Windermere 16.2 400 2,862 2,462
9 Doral 15.7 7,180 52,889 45,709
10 Cooper City 15.6 4,449 32,996 28,547

TABLE 02. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Population Change, 2010 to 2014

Rank City 2010 to 2014 Change Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 Census
1 Miami 28,599 7.2 428,107 399,508
2 Jacksonville 24,637 3.0 846,421 821,784
3 Orlando 17,336 7.3 255,636 238,300
4 Tampa 17,032 5.1 352,741 335,709
5 Cape Coral 9,294 6.0 163,599 154,305
6 St. Petersburg 7,603 3.1 252,372 244,769
7 Doral 7,180 15.7 52,889 45,709
8 Fort Myers 7,139 11.5 69,437 62,298
9 Sweetwater 6,846 50.7 20,345 13,499
10 Miramar 6,391 5.2 128,432 122,041

Consequently, one of the first steps is to decide what you want to compare.   Do you want percent change or absolute change?  Then you’ll need to decide what categories of cities to compare – all cities or just cities of similar size?  Lazy Lake is the 95th fastest growing city out of more than 400 cities.  It grew by 4.2% but added only one person (24 in 2010 and 25 in 2014).  Do you compare this to Miami or should you only compare it to other small cities like Weeki Wachee?  Can you even determine any meaningful population trend from the addition of one person?

To help with the comparison of the growth of Florida cities, we have constructed a series of six tables (Table 03 through Table 08 below) that compare the percentage growth in six size categories of cities based on their 2010 population.

Special one-time events can affect population growth, but may not necessarily be repeated in future years.  These can include annexations, or less frequently, de-annexations and special populations.  Most cities only occasionally annex small areas with small populations or large areas with very little population into their city limits.  Some cities regularly annex small areas, and some cities occasionally annex large populations.  These annexations of large populations can skew the growth trend of a city to be artificially high.  An example of this is the city of Sweetwater in Miami-Dade County.  Almost all of the 6,846 increase in the 2010-2014 population for Sweetwater came from a one-time annexation that is not likely to be repeated anytime soon.  This caused Sweetwater to be the second fastest growing city based on percent change at 50.7%.  Likewise, the City of Marianna in Jackson County was the 4th fastest growing city based on percent change at 29.5%, but almost all of the growth came from the annexation of a prison. Often special group quarters populations increase or decrease by large amounts between one year and the next.  Prisons and college dorms are good examples of these changes.  The opening or closing of large buildings containing these populations can cause a large one-time change.

The bottom line is that a simple question is really not all that simple. To arrive at an answer to “What is the fastest growing city?” you must first answer some follow-up questions to determine exactly what it is you want to know. Otherwise, the answer you get may provide something other than the information you want to know.

TABLE 03. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Greater or Equal to 50,000

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Fort Myers 11.5 69,437 7,139 62,298
2 Homestead 10.0 66,586 6,077 60,509
3 Kissimmee 7.8 64,365 4,683 59,682
4 Orlando 7.3 255,636 17,336 238,300
5 Miami 7.2 428,107 28,599 399,508
6 Cape Coral 6.0 163,599 9,294 154,305
7 Miramar 5.2 128,432 6,391 122,041
8 North Port 5.1 60,295 2,938 57,357
9 North Miami 5.1 61,912 3,000 58,912
10 Tampa 5.1 352,741 17,032 335,709
All 6.6 1,651,110 102,489 1,548,621

TABLE 04. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Greater or Equal to 10,000 and Less than 50,000

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Sweetwater 50.7 20,345 6,846 13,499
2 South Miami 16.9 13,623 1,966 11,657
3 Doral 15.7 52,889 7,180 45,709
4 Cooper City 15.6 32,996 4,449 28,547
5 St. Cloud 12.8 39,674 4,491 35,183
6 Ocoee 11.5 39,679 4,100 35,579
7 Winter Garden 11.2 38,442 3,874 34,568
8 Opa-locka 10.9 16,873 1,654 15,219
9 Zephyrhills 10.9 14,732 1,444 13,288
10 Crestview 10.6 23,209 2,231 20,978
  All 15.0 292,462 38,235 254,227

TABLE 05. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Greater or Equal to 5,000 and Less than 10,000

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Marianna 29.5 7,903 1,801 6,102
2 Groveland 20.8 10,546 1,817 8,729
3 North Bay Village 10.0 7,851 714 7,137
4 Wildwood 8.1 7,252 543 6,709
5 Avon Park 7.7 9,513 677 8,836
6 Belle Isle 7.2 6,422 434 5,988
7 Minneola 7.0 10,062 659 9,403
8 Fort Meade 5.8 5,955 329 5,626
9 Milton 5.6 9,316 490 8,826
10 Alachua 4.6 9,479 420 9,059
All 10.3 84,299 7,884 76,415

TABLE 06. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Greater or Equal to 1,000 and Less than 5,000

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Freeport 39.2 2,488 701 1,787
2 Windermere 16.2 2,862 400 2,462
3 Bal Harbour 13.6 2,855 342 2,513
4 Davenport 12.5 3,248 360 2,888
5 Midway 12.2 3,369 365 3,004
6 Malone 11.9 2,337 249 2,088
7 St. Leo 9.3 1,465 125 1,340
8 Wewahitchka 8.8 2,156 175 1,981
9 Lake Placid 6.8 2,375 152 2,223
10 San Antonio 6.7 1,214 76 1,138
All 13.7 24,369 2,945 21,424

TABLE 07. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Greater or Equal to 500 and Less than 1,000

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Gulf Stream 24.6 979 193 786
2 Altha 6.3 570 34 536
3 Hastings 4.7 607 27 580
4 Grand Ridge 3.3 921 29 892
5 Greensboro 2.7 618 16 602
6 Medley 2.5 859 21 838
7 Palm Shores 2.4 922 22 900
8 Shalimar 2.4 734 17 717
9 Welaka 1.4 711 10 701
10 Key Colony Beach 1.4 808 11 797
All 5.2 7,729 380 7,349

TABLE 08. Rank of the Top 10 Cities in Florida by Percent Change in Population, 2010 to 2014

2010 Population Less than 500

Rank City Percent Change 2010 to 2014 2014 Estimate 2010 to 2014 Change 2010 Census
1 Lake Buena Vista 120.0 22 12 10
2 Bell 9.0 497 41 456
3 Westville 8.3 313 24 289
4 Lazy Lake 4.2 25 1 24
5 Cinco Bayou 3.7 397 14 383
6 La Crosse 3.6 373 13 360
7 Indian Creek 3.5 89 3 86
8 Alford 3.1 504 15 489
9 Highland Park 3.0 237 7 230
10 Worthington Springs 2.7 418 11 407
All 5.2 2,875 141 2,734

POSTED:  January 6, 2015.

Publication Types:
BEBR Division:
Scroll to Top