Population growth remains steady Southwest Florida

Population growth remains steady in Southwest Florida.

While Florida cities have historically ranked high for population growth, Texas metro areas dominate the latest list of fastest-growing cities in the country, likely due to job demands in the oil and gas industries. No Florida metro area was ranked in the top 15. Kissimmee’s ranking of 31 was the highest in Florida.

Fort Myers topped Southwest Florida cities, ranking as the 47th fastest growing city in the country. It grew 2.2 percent last year and 4.7 percent since the 2010 census.

“We have had our challenges and problems with the recession, but post-recession, we’re growing again,” said Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson.

Lee County saw 2.1 percent growth last year and Collier County 1.5 percent. Since the 2010 Census, Lee is up 4.3 percent and Collier 3.4 percent.

Cape Coral saw growth of 2.2 percent for the year and 4.5 percent since 2010.

While the growth is steady, it’s far from the eye-popping numbers of the early and mid-2000s. Lee County grew by 20,475 in 2006-07. Collier grew by 7,200 that year.

Gary Jackson, assistant economics professor and Regional Economic Research Institute director at FGCU, said a lot of the fast-growing areas on the list didn’t have as high an unemployment rate as most of Florida.

He said Florida is setting the stage for growth in the future.

“This is a very desirable area, with great amenities, and housing prices are much more affordable than they’ve been in the peak times,” he said.

Jackson said this year is turning out to be better as the state gets back to normal levels of unemployment and recovery from the recession continues.

Bonita Springs City Manager Carl Schwing was not surprised about the city’s 5 1/2 percent population growth to 46,340 residents since 2010.

“Bonita is a very desirable community in which to live. We think we offer an unparalleled quality of life down here. We’ve got our beaches, we got areas where we can be out in the woods, we got the Imperial River. We got all the green space we have,” said Schwing, who moved to Bonita from Cape Coral with his wife in 2011 after he took the job.

“We’ve got a wide variety of housing here. I think it attracts people.”

Schwing said it’s also part of economic growth. “We see people starting to recognize that prices are starting to move up on housing. If there’s ever a time to get into a house, it’s now as long as you can get a loan,” he said.

“We see multiple new housing developments that have been started in the city where they’re selling very quickly. We’re getting great reports from the builders that this is a great market.”

— Staff writer Christina Cepero contributed to this report.

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