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Forbes: Osceola 10th fastest growing county

Posted on Friday, March 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer
Osceola County is growing so fast that Forbes Magazine in February recognized Osceola County as America’s 10th Fastest Growing County.
County Forbes’ Contributing Author Joel Kotkin, in a piece he wrote about the list, said the trend of people flocking back to denser-populated urban centers has shifted back toward the creation of more edge-of-town clusters.
“The counties with populations over 100,000 that have gained the most new residents since 2010 tells us something very different: Suburbs and exurbs are making a comeback, something that even the density-obsessed New York Times has been forced to admit,” he wrote. “Of the 10 fastest-growing large counties all but two — Orleans Parish, home to the recovering city of New Orleans, and the Texas oil town of Midland — are located in the suburban or exurban fringe of major metropolitan areas.”
Counties on the list were ranked according to population and job growth and new housing starts since 2010. Osceola, with a population over 287,000 in 2012, saw 6.97 percent growth from 2010-12 according
to Forbes.
“Exurb” is a fairly new term, used to describe a ring of prospering communities beyond the suburbs that are commuter towns for an urban area, which describes Osceola’s proximity to Orlando. According to the book “The Exurbanites,” where the term was coined, exurbs are also often linked to metro areas by parkway or expressway systems.
Kotkin also shared that over the last decade in the 51 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, inner cores, within two miles of downtown, gained about 206,000 people, while locations 20 miles out gained more than
8.5 million.
“What these findings demonstrate is that more people aren’t moving ‘back to the city’ but further out,” he wrote.
With the Orlando metropolitan population slated to double by 2040, and Osceola County having exponentially more developable land (104,000 acres, compared to 10,000 in Orange and 1,000 in Seminole), Osceola’s planners, both economic and development-based, have been bracing for anticipated growth for nearly 10 years, right before the housing market turned sour, County Manager Don Fisher said.
“We know the growth is going to happen here, mostly extending east and south. We’ve master-planned 50,000 of those acres,” Fisher said. “During the recession, we started planning for our recovery.”
Fisher said the next big development areas would be in the northeast corridor, south of Lake Tohopekaliga and around East Lake Toho.
But, Osceola County will not become home to wall-to-wall sprawl, and rural areas will remain wide open spaces, county officials said. The county has set up an Urban Growth Boundary that leaves much of the eastern and southern portions of the county open for agricultural purposes, the county’s second leading industry behind tourism.
“The county and its housing market is an attractive place to live,” Fisher said. “And Florida is friendly for businesses, their employees don’t pay state income taxes.”
Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce President John Newstreet said the county has positioned itself to continue the growth seen over the last three years.
“My stock quote is that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen in Osceola County,” he said. “Our leaders have identified business clusters we want to attract, and know what we do well and what the future holds,” he said. “We have the right people at the table, and with that comes education and quality of life. We’re on the right track.”
Of the 10 growing counties on the list, four are in Texas, two in Virginia as suburbs or exurbs of Washington, D.C., and one in Georgia, Tennessee and Louisiana (Orleans Parish) along with Osceola County.