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Robert Trigaux

Why are some Tampa Bay counties shrinking, while others add people?




Wake up and good morning. What do these Florida counties have in common? Pinellas. Citrus. Hernando. Sarasota. Charlotte. Lee. Volusia. They all sustained a net loss in population in 2009 (in census terms, that's July 2008 to July 2009).

And what do these counties share? Hillsborough. Pasco. Manatee. Miami-Dade. Orange, Palm Beach. They all enjoyed net gains in population in the same time period.

So say census figures that break down population flows in and out of individual counties based on births, deaths and foreign and domestic migration.

So what to make of these "winners" and losers" in county growth? A few thoughts about the Tampa Bay area counties:

* Pinellas has long been a net loser of people in the sense that more people die in the county than are born here. Pinellas had a net loss of 1,045 people in 2009 because 11,395 died while 9,027 were born and the county could not make up the difference by attracting people. It's an aging population versus a more modest base of growing young families.

* Hernando faced a similar situation, losing 214 people because 2,544 died and 1,712 were born there in 2009. Hernando also suffered, I assume, because it has struggled with one of the highest unemployment rates (14.5 percent at last count) in the state. People, real estate experts say, are also far less willing to live far away from their jobs as gas prices, highway congestion and dimmer rural prospects are keeping people closer to urban metro areas.

* The story in Citrus echoes Hernando. The net loss of people was 508 while 2,348 died and 1,163 were born.

And what of the net gainers among counties?

* Hillsborough, home of Tampa, was a big gainer, adding 15,199 in 2009. That's second in the state behind much larger Miami-Dade County which was up 21,880. Why did Hillsborough prosper? It still has plenty of land for newer homes. It's a younger county. And, critical to its growth, more people were born there in 2009 than died there. While 9,174 died, 17,226 were born there. Hillsborough even added more people than Broward County (Fort Lauderdale) and a big difference is Hillsborough had a net increase in people in the state and country move there while Broward saw a big net exodus of people from its county. Miami-Dade saw a whopping 32,380 gain in international migration while a staggering net departure of 25,142 to other parts of the state and country.

* Pasco also added people, a healthy 3,325 gain in 2009. The county, I'm thinking, enjoyed its adjacent proximity to expanding Hillsborough and a growing reputation as a less expensive place to live but still within commuting distance of Hillsborough/Pinellas for job purposes. More people died in Pasco (5,635) than were born there (5,598) but the difference was slight. A similar gain befell Manatee, just below Hillsborough and Pinellas (on the other end of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge) which enjoyed a boost of 2,302 people, but with more births (3,911) than deaths (3,526). Sarasota County, in contrast, dropped 102 people.

This AP story looks at county trends nationwide and suggests many counties are in economic and demographic peril.

Here's the census data if you want to look more closely at Florida's population trends by county in 2009.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist

[Last modified: Wednesday, February 23, 2011 7:09am]


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