It’s well known that by 2015, Florida could surpass New York as the nation’s third most populous state. What’s drawn less attention is that much of Florida’s population growth through 2060 is expected to take place within two broad corridors: the Tampa Bay area through Orlando to the Atlantic coast and the Tampa Bay area to Jacksonville.
Hillsborough County alone could gain 600,000 people to reach a population of about 1.8 million — and add 400,000 jobs to reach 1 million by 2040, mid-level projections in a University of Florida study indicate.
That kind of growth clearly would affect transportation, the environment and the types of new jobs — with the service and health industries growing even more.
Growth also might increase housing values, create crowding similar to what’s affected the ambiance of South Florida in recent decades and shift cultural attitudes; for example, more people may want to live closer to where they work.
“The new population growth will make Tampa younger, more urban,” said Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez, who sits on local transit boards.
“Livability, the economy, transit — these and other factors will be reflections of the increasing vibrancy of the Tampa area,” Suarez said.
Two sources contributed to Florida’s population growth between 2010 and 2012: Net migration accounted for 69.7 percent, and births over deaths accounted for 30.3 percent.
While the nationwide recession slowed Florida’s population growth in recent years, short-term signals that demographers check — from surveys of utility billings to the reports that moving companies file — show Florida’s population has begun to grow steadily again, though not at previous rapid rates. That’s in line with nationwide census reports.
“Florida’s population growth in 2013 is a little more than last year,” said Scott Cody, research demographer for the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. “But I don’t like to rely on one year’s growth.”
Florida’s population on April 1, 2012, was estimated to be 19,074,434, a 1.5 percent gain since 2010, the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research said in a report to the Florida Legislature earlier this year.
That compared with 32.7 percent growth in the decade of the 1980s; 23.5 percent in the 1990s; and 17.6 percent in the 2000s.
But even at an annual growth rate of less than 2 percent, Florida’s population is expected to reach 19,750,577 by 2015 and 25,583,153 by 2040, a July report by the Florida Demographic Estimating Conference showed.
By comparison, New York state’s population in 2015 is expected to reach 19,546,904, and 19,623,506 in 2040, a Cornell University report for the state said.
Demographers warn against comparing reports from different agencies because researchers can use different assumptions and methodology.
However, the findings from multiple sources for Florida’s population outlook appear to be in general agreement. That includes the rationale for why the Tampa Bay region is likely to outpace other areas of the state in population growth.
Florida’s seven most populous counties — Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas and Duval — account for more than 50 percent of the state’s population.
“The three Southeast Florida counties and Pinellas County are very nearly out of vacant, developable land,” a consultant’s draft report in August for the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization said.
“The impact is that Hillsborough and Orange counties, as well as other Tampa Bay, Southwest and Central Florida counties such as Lee, Polk and Pasco, will absorb a proportionately greater share of Florida’s growth than was the case prior to 2000.”
Hillsborough County’s population ranked fourth statewide in April 2012 with 1,256,118 people, while Pinellas County ranked sixth with 920,381.
But Hillsborough ranked third behind Miami-Dade and Orange counties in adding the most population between 2010 and 2012, with a gain of 26,892 residents.
And growth is expected to spread from Hillsborough both north and east.
The Florida Department of Transportation in April reported more than 7.5 million people and 3.1 million jobs are in the 15-county corridor planners call the Tampa Bay-Orlando-Daytona “Super Region,” the 10th largest U.S. regional economy.
As many as 5.7 million additional residents are expected in 50 years in a 60-mile-wide corridor between Tampa, Orlando and Daytona Beach and Melbourne.
More than 5.2 million people and 2.2 million jobs are located in a corridor FDOT identified between Tampa and Northeast Florida and Jacksonville, which includes portions of some counties included in the Central Florida study.
FDOT estimates the Northeast Corridor population could expand by more than 80 percent by 2060, with four of five new residents locating in the Tampa Bay area or in counties surrounding Jacksonville.
On the county level, planners are fine-tuning population growth projections with an eye toward seeking residents’ input on how they’d like the area to develop.
The Hillsborough MPO began with University of Florida forecasts of an increase from 1.1 million residents in 2010 to either 1.4 million, 1.8 million or 2.3 million by 2040, based on low, medium and high projections.
Then the MPO planners showed how population and employees could be distributed based on different assumptions and community vales, resulting in three “Alternative Futures for 2040”:
◆ Outward Growth — Expand growth boundary to make room for new suburbs. Extend roads and water lines.
◆ Focus inward — Create new town centers in older commercial areas. Add rapid bus, rail and circulator shuttles and pedestrian and bike connections.
◆ Jobs along corridors — Create new corporate parks with housing along major corridors. Add express toll lanes along Interstates 4, 75 and 275.
Residents are invited to offer the MPO feedback in an online survey being conducted through Oct. 20 at Imagine2040.org and at countywide kiosk locations.
“The population growth figures are stunning,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman, who serves on the MPO board. “I for one am paying attention. For transportation to be efficient, it needs to be near densities of population.”
Population growth’s impact on Tampa Bay housing values will depend on how and where growth spreads, in particular whether it continues to sprawl into Pasco and other counties, said John Tuccillo, chief economist of Florida Realtors.
Normally, greater population would produce upward pressure on housing prices, but that will depend on how specifics in the Tampa Bay region work out, Tuccillo said.
The recession accelerated the long-term transition of the Tampa-Orlando-Daytona “Super Region’s” economy, FDOT’s Future Corridors Initiative report stated.
During the past decade, the Tampa-Central Florida corridor lost jobs in construction and manufacturing, but it reported solid gains in professional and business services, education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.
Trade, transportation and utilities comprise the largest major industry employment sector, and the economy will be driven by clusters of industries dependent on transportation for access to labor, markets, suppliers, customers and visitors.