Thursday, February 24, 2005

Florida is a Hot Spot

Are people coming or going to Florida?

Answer: More are coming than going, and that trend is getting stronger as we move farther in time from the insane 2004 storm season.

Florida became the No. 1 "Magnet State" last year, at least according to Allied Van Lines, which together with sister company North American Van Lines, accounts for one-quarter of the U.S. market for national van line carriers.

The move into Florida seems to be part of a broader trend of people moving South. The Sunshine State was followed in order by Arizona, North Carolina and Georgia. "In terms of numbers, the states below the Mason-Dixon line attracted the most new people," said Mike McMahon, president of moving services at Allied's parent, Sirva Inc. "Warmer climates, better employment opportunities and a continued migration of retirees no doubt played a role in this pattern." "Past reports haven't illustrated such a pronounced regional pattern," McMahon said in a statement. "A clear South, particularly Southeast trend emerged in the 2004 report. "Florida became the No. 1 magnet state through sheer volume of moves in both directions.

Last year, Allied Van Lines helped 8,987 households move out of the state, and 10,722 move in. It was the 1,735 net move-ins that put Florida at the top of the company's yearly magnet state list.

Allied spokeswoman Judy Wholt said Florida didn't even make the Top 10 list of inbound states during 2003."You guys were No. 11, Wholt said. Florida's move-in-move-out status is quite fluid. Allied ranks the state the second-most-mobile, after California. To get that number, the company took the 21,288 shipments to or from California that it handled and compared that with the comparable 19,709 in Florida.Texas was a poor third in mobility, with 15,232 total shipments.

While Florida was showing its overall magnetism last year, it was also true that quite a few Florida residents decided to split in the wake of the storms. That is a trend that has only recently begun to settle out, show separate statistics from U-Haul, the do-it-yourself moving giant.

Because of the hurricane action, and particularly Hurricane Charley, which ripped through Charlotte County, U-Haul of Sarasota and other movers have seen strong demand for outgoing one-way trucks, either to carry remaining possessions somewhere else, or to move out entirely.

There was an exodus from the state that started with Hurricane Charley in mid-August and didn't stabilize until early January, said John Carroll, U-Haul's west coast supervisor, who keeps track of a fleet of trucks from Lakeland to Naples. "Starting the end of August right after that Aug. 13 hurricane, we started losing trucks drastically," Carroll said.

So if previous residents were leaving, and Florida's magnet-state status is growing, where are the new people coming from and where are they settling?

Just like they always have, they are coming predominantly from the Northeast and the Midwest. They are apparently pouring into new developments such as Lakewood Ranch, a town-in-the-making in eastern Manatee County.

Last year, 15,000 visitors signed in at the information center for the mega-development, which covers thousands of acres east of Interstate 75. That figure was 29 percent higher than in 2003, when 11,600 people showed up.

"There is a trend there," said Lakewood Ranch spokeswoman Sondra Guffey. "This is a popular place. "Just over half of those visitors were from out of state, Guffey said. Of the out-of-staters, 50 percent were from the Northeast, and another 26 percent were from the Midwest. The top state of origin for the past four years has been New York, with New Jersey No. 2 and Pennsylvania No. 3.

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