Here We Grow Again, Modestly

Guest Correspondence


As local, state and national communities continue to emerge from the Great Recession, gand wade through a slow recovery, the interests of the greater Sarasota community have, to a degree, shifted from jobs and the economy to growth and development. It is a not uncommon cyclical shift that occurs as the economy and development tend to follow similar patterns. For residents, growth is sometimes measured by drive time and/or perceived encroachments of new development. However, growth is most sensibly measured by the population.   

Growth is typically best measured as a rate when contemplating its current state. This is particularly true when comparing growth across geographic areas where populations can vary greatly. 

This method is often applied, for example, when viewing the stock market. How does one compare the performance of a $100 stock versus a $0.50 stock?  What if you invested $100 in each? With the first, you would have one share; with the second, you would have 200 shares.  How would you compare the change if each stock were to grow in value by $1? Your first purchase would net a $1 gain (1 share X $1), but your second purchase would have netted $200 (200 shares X $1). The first stock grew at a rate of 1 percent, while the second grew at a rate of 200 percent. Understanding the rate of growth is paramount to understanding the impact of growth, whether it relates to your stock portfolio or the size of your community.

Based on U.S. Census data, the 10-year growth rate for Sarasota County, between 2003 and 2013 was 13.12 percent.  While that time period includes the Great Recession, it also includes a significant housing boom that occurred in the mid-2000s. On average, though, the community grew at a rate of about 1.3 percent per-year. In a vacuum, one would have no way of knowing the comparative value of that rate. However, if one looks at a neighboring community and/or the state as a whole, perhaps that rate would be given context. Between 2003 and 2013, Manatee County grew at a rate of nearly 2 percent per year. That’s almost 50 percent faster than Sarasota. During that same period, Florida great at a rate of just over 1.5 percent per year, which is around 15 percent greater.

It’s likely also worth understanding how a community grows. In 2013, in Sarasota County, the number of deaths outpaced the number of births by nearly 6 people per 1,000. That means that the internal population saw an annual net decrease of around 2,300 people. In a comparative sense, Manatee County saw its net internal population drop by a nominal figure (0.3 per 1,000) and the state of Florida saw an internal net gain of around 1.8 people per 1,000.  What that means is that Sarasota’s growth is, in a sense, totally predicated on migration.  Moreover, Sarasota is reliant on migration in order to ensure that the community doesn’t stagnate or decline. 

Growth is the inevitable indication of a desirable community. Given the fact that Sarasota’s net internal decline has increased over the last 10-years, while at the same time continuing to grow, it would appear that the area is becoming increasingly more desirable.  

SRQ Daily Columnist Kevin Cooper is the vice president for Public Policy and Sarasota Tomorrow Initiatives for The Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce

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