This column is focused on growth, specifically how our community is growing and what that means for all of us who love to Live Life Here. I’ll start by sharing a few national rankings and then provide a Census update.
Each year, U-Haul reveals their Top Cities for Growth. This list is based on moves using one-way U-Haul rentals. While not completely scientific, it does have a basis in data. Ocala has been on this list every year for the last several years; however, the community ranked #1 for 2022. This ranking is important because of who moves using U-Haul – young people. The company reports their primary target audience are singles and young families.
The National Association of Realtors unveiled their Where People are Moving list earlier this year as well. This set of rankings was compiled based on US Postal Service change of address requests and reviewed out of metro area moves based on zip codes. In other words, they were looking for true cross city moves and not just changes in neighborhoods. Overall, a pretty reliable data source for moves. Again, the Ocala Metro ranked #1 based on this criterion.
With people moving, they need a place to live. One needs only to listen to or read national news and be concerned that new home construction has come to an end. Perhaps in other places but not in the Ocala Metro. Realtor.com looked at nearly 400 metros across the nation and ranked the Ocala Metro #2 for new home construction. Builders here are continuing to build and sell new homes.
Supporting all these rankings are the new Census numbers. At the end of March, the Census released the updated population numbers as of 30 June 2022. The Ocala Metro ended that period with a population of 396,415. This increase aligns with the aforementioned rankings. It also means that over the last year the area added approximately 220 new residents a week which leads to the continued need to add new single-family and multi-family homes. Based on even the most conservative calculations, the Ocala Metro’s population exceeded 400,000 by the end of 2022.
While it is nearly impossible for a community to have economic growth without population growth, a city can have population growth but not economic growth. However, that is not the case for the Ocala Metro. Data released from the US Department of Commerce measured the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for each US Metro area. The economy of the Ocala Metro grew 11.3% over the last two years. This is nearly double the Florida average and quadruple the US average over this same period. The Ocala Metro ranks in the Top 10 fastest growing metro economies.
This ranking is what is most important. A growing economy means more opportunities for everyone. It results in higher wages and increased prospects for businesses. It provides for young singles, families, and empty nesters to all discover they can Live Life Here. A term one of our team members has coined and I like to repeat, Ocala=Opportunity.