More People Moved to One Florida County Than Any Other in 2023

Florida's citrus grove-replete Polk County is quite the draw these days
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 14, 2024 1:28 PM CDT
Is It the Oranges? Florida County Leads US as Destination for Movers
In this Oct. 12, 2007, file photo, a "For Sale" sign sits among orange trees in Bartow, Florida.   (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

More people moved to a county rich with citrus groves located between two of Florida's most populous metro areas than to any other county in the US last year, according to estimates released Thursday by the US Census Bureau. More than 29,300 people moved last year to the county between Tampa and Orlando, two metro areas where housing has grown increasingly pricey and the county is considered a cheaper alternative. In short order, Polk County has come to have fewer orange groves and more subdivisions for local service workers, as well as distribution warehouses for on-demand deliveries in both metropolitan areas, per the AP.

Only four other counties—Harris and Montgomery counties in metro Houston; Collin County in metro Dallas; and Maricopa County, home to Phoenix—grew by more people, thanks to their higher numbers of natural increase, or births outnumbering deaths. Harris County grew by almost 54,000 people, the most of any county last year, with about two-thirds of the growth coming from births outpacing deaths. That natural increase of almost 34,700 people was the highest in the nation. Despite having an influx of thousands of new residents from abroad, and births outpacing deaths, some of the most populous US counties also lost the most residents due to their moving to other counties last year, a trend that accelerated at the start of the decade with the beginning of the pandemic.

With more than 62,000 acres of citrus groves, Polk County is one of the leading producers of oranges in Florida. The state's citrus industry in recent years has been squeezed between a fast-spreading bacteria that has attacked trees and relentless growth. Despite that, Polk County has held onto its citrus heritage. Most of the growth has been concentrated in the county's northeast, just a few miles from Walt Disney World. But many of the citrus growers there who sold their land to subdivision builders just moved to the county's south, where citrus groves are still plentiful, says Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, a growers advocacy group. "Everywhere you go right now, the groves are snow white and the smell is sweet," Joyner says. "It reminds you of the old days." More here. (More population growth stories.)

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