Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Here They Come ... Again

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Here They Come ... Again

Article excerpt

Census data shows populations are rising anew in every city in the region as the job seekers and retirees return

Every city in Sarasota and Manatee counties grew in population last year according to new census data, some at the fastest pace since the real estate boom.

The growth -- while modest in most cases -- is more proof that an improving economy is drawing job seekers to the region, and that retirees are moving to the area in greater numbers, experts say.

Southwest Florida municipalities experienced minimal population growth during the Great Recession, but that began to shift in 2012. That's when each of the larger cities -- Sarasota, Bradenton, North Port and Venice -- saw an increase of 1 percent or greater for the first time in years.

Growth rates in North Port and Bradenton increased further in 2013, while Sarasota's growth dipped slightly to just below 1 percent and Venice held steady with a 1.1 percent population spike.

North Port's 1.4 percent increase last year -- up from 1.3 percent in 2012 -- is not surprising. The 100-square-mile community was already the region's most populated city, and there is ample land available for development as the real estate recovery continues. North Port added more than 800 residents last year. The city has a population of 59,212, compared to the 53,326 in Sarasota and 21,253 in Venice.

Less expected: a 2.3 percent uptick in Bradenton that added 1,145 residents, bringing the total population to 51,763. The city grew faster than any in the region.

Such a substantial increase is unusual because cities such as Bradenton, Sarasota and Venice are largely built out. Most of the local population growth has tended to occur in North Port -- one of the fastest-growing cities in Florida before the real estate downturn -- and in unincorporated areas of Sarasota and Manatee counties like Lakewood Ranch, although Venice and Bradenton have expanded through annexation in recent years.

'A pretty good run'

While the city population numbers released Thursday are only estimates, they are considered more accurate than other annual census tallies that rely on surveys with limited sample sizes.

This latest population count is based on birth certificates and other official records, and has a very small margin of error, according to census officials. …

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