OCALA, Fla. – March 29, 2016 – For the third consecutive year, The Villages has been identified as the nation’s fastest growing metro region.
The Villages Metropolitan Statistical Area grew from 114,000 residents on July 1, 2014, to 118,891 on the same date in 2015. That’s a 4.3 percent increase – best in the United States, the Census Bureau reports.
The Villages is the nation’s 324th biggest MSA, up from 335th biggest the year before. There are 381 MSAs.
The record-setting growth is almost old news in The Villages, the famous retirement community that covers parts of Lake, Sumter and Marion counties. The population grew 5.2 percent between 2012 and 2013 and then 5.4 percent between 2013 and 2014, leading the nation both times.
“It’s absolutely amazing, and it’s not slowing down,” said Joe Brown, a Realtor with Homerun Realty who works in Marion, Lake and Sumter counties. “The sales are absolutely, no doubt, increasing.”
Brown said lot prices in the “outer skirts” – land near but not actually in The Villages proper – also are relatively high. People are willing to live close by, get in their golf carts, and “commute” to The Villages for fun.
Why has the growth continued unabated?
“It’s literally the Walt Disney World of the tri-county area,” Brown said. In other words, people flock there for the lifestyle.
Jim McCallum and his wife visited The Villages many times, traveling down from their suburban Milwaukee home. When they got serious about relocating, there was no doubt where they would go. They bought a home south of County Road 466A in 2012 and moved there full time in July 2014.
“They pretty much deliver what they promise,” McCallum said. “If you can think of an activity, they have a club for it.” Not to mention the golf, pickle ball, and other recreation activities.
McCallum is contributing to The Villages’ population growth indirectly, as well: He’s a Realtor with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices – a part-time post that is an extension of his real estate career up North.
“There’s always a steady flow of people coming in” to The Villages, he said. And some leave their homes, as well, as they age and need assisted living environments.
Don Browning is a “serial entrepreneur” who has business interests in the Ocala/Marion County/Villages region and beyond. One way of looking at growth in The Villages, he said, is to consider the business case.
The increasing population is, among other things, an increasing customer base for goods and services. And that base has disposable income.
“You never hold a job without (having) a customer,” Browning said. Companies, and the self-employed, might “draw the circle a little bigger” and “go right into the population base.”
“That,” he said, “is Economics 101.”
The Villages wasn’t the only fast-growing metro areas in Florida. Joining it in the Top 20 for percentage growth are Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Punta Gorda, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford and Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, the Census reports.
Of the 381 metro areas nationwide, 285 gained population between July 1, 2014 and July 1, 2015. New York-Newark-Jersey City is the biggest metro area nationwide, with 20.18 million people.