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

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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.

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