Polk County Will Experience Growing Pains If We Don’t Plan for Future Growth
by Kevin Kieft, Certified Economic Developer and Real Estate Professional
Polk County, along with the rest of Florida, is growing. Hundreds of people move to Florida every day. The last five to ten years alone have seen immense growth in the county and the state. The overall population is expected to increase by an average of more than 300,000 residents a year, with the population growing to 23.1 million people by April 2025, according to a study from the Demographic Estimating Conference.
The good news is that this population boom will bring with it new talent for the job market. More people mean more great minds and talent for our schools and businesses, which means more new, fresh ideas to improve our communities.
This booming population also means more taxable income. More new residents mean more new taxpayers, which means more money for public amenities like roads, bridges, schools, and parks. That should be our goal: to build more wealth in the community, so more people can get involved and make money and hopefully allow Polk County to be a more prosperous region.
Currently, we are in a housing boom. Housing prices are high, and interest and mortgage rates are low. These factors are creating a perfect storm of residential buying. And that comes with challenges. For one, people are hesitant to get into the market and sell their homes, which can produce a diminished supply of homes that people can buy.
With the recent surge in housing prices and people seeking to move here, we have seen the demand outpacing the supply. This increase is having an upward push on housing prices countrywide but strong here in Central Florida. Home prices are rising in double-digit percentages.
Furthermore, to facilitate further residential growth, we also need economic development. For example, if a large corporation were to open a new facility with a thousand new jobs, that would mean thousands of people who need a home to live in, a school for their children, roads to drive upon, and businesses where they can eat, shop, and play.
If you are looking to attract new businesses, you need the adequate number of utilities, roads, and other amenities to provide for this growth. As Polk County grows, residential development must follow suit. Otherwise, we can see the same problems that plague states like California with huge utility price increases and crumbling infrastructure.
That is where we are right now. People need amenities. People need them as they move. It’s a matter of supply and demand. Businesses are expanding. The demand rises as more people come here. There is a demand for different services. That is how it plays out: it is basic economics on the social level playing out here.
So how do we adequately address this growth? The most important thing is open communication with local community planning agencies and economic development agencies. We need to sit down and talk with the planning professionals. Ask them how we should grow as a community and a county, and see what infrastructure will be required to facilitate this growth.
All of these agencies should be in open communication with one another to work in tandem with each other to help with this growth. It is such open communication, people being in contact with each other to figure out what is going on, what is coming, where development is needed, what is missing, that will allow Polk County to grow bigger and better.
Polk County is growing. Central Florida is growing. I am happy to see it grow from economic development and real estate side. It is great to see such growth. It is great that people want to be here and stay here. But we all need to plan for the future, lest our county experiences growing pains.