When he looks at The Villages, Gov. Rick Scott sees an exciting dynamic taking place that squarely aligns with his state economic policies.
Jobs, jobs and more jobs.
In an exclusive interview Thursday with the Daily Sun, the governor voiced pride about the surging job market in The Villages metropolitan statistical area, and its positive regional and state economic impact.
“There’s not many other places growing like The Villages, in the entire state or anywhere in the country, or anywhere the world,” he said. “When I ran in 2010, I ran on a jobs platform. People were out of work; 800,000 people lost their jobs in (the previous) four years. Now we’ve added almost 1.4 million new jobs, and The Villages has been part of that. People are doing all sorts of things here from growing small businesses to building roads to working at all the different restaurants we enjoy. I’m appreciative because I enjoy all the different jobs.”
Without prompting, the governor recited one key statistic about the MSA, a 4.5 percent 12-month annual employment growth rate.
That year-over-year rate grew by 4 percent in the May jobs report the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics published about a week ago.
In terms of percentage increase, the 4 percent gain tied the MSA as the 11th fastest-growing job market in the United States, with a year-over-year May increase of 1,100 new jobs.
That job growth, with a large portion occurring in the home-building sectors, explains why The Villages ranks as the nation’s second top-selling master-planned community, with a 17 percent year-over-year growth for the six months ended June 30, according to the researchers at RCLCO Real Estate Advisors, one of the U.S. real estate industry’s go-to sources for research and consultation services.
One reason accounts for this growth, Sumter County Commission Chairman Doug Gilpin said.
The announcement earlier this year by The Villages Developer to build 14,000 homes in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks, he said.
“It’s obviously a direct result of The Villages Developer moving forward with a very substantial investment in Sumter County,” Gilpin said. “With that comes the confidence of all businesses in Sumter County to say, ‘Me too.’ It really is all about leadership.”
Businesses know The Villages Developer as a stable force in the county, Gilpin said.
“The Villages Developer has provided such as steady platform over such a long period of time, it makes it easy to keep things going well,” he said.
And the Developer’s roots in the community also translate into opportunities not only for Sumter residents, but also those in surrounding communities, Gilpin said.
“It means that families can live and prosper here in Sumter County,” he said. “In the past, you couldn’t do that. We also have a tremendous influx of people who come into Sumter, earn their money and then go back to other counties to live. Over time, that will change as The Villages grows and opens up more opportunities for workers to build their homes here.”
The jobs emerging from the MSA growth trend also contribute to a wide web of economic impact.
For instance, jobs in the construction industry produce houses, particularly in The Villages, that attract new Villagers who invested well for their retirement.
The increased population of retirees, combined with the growing workforce, has a positive impact on real personal income in The Villages, according to the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Even prior to this growth surge, the MSA produced strong growth in real personal income, according to the bureau’s latest available statistical report released about two weeks ago.
From 2011-15, real personal income in the MSA grew by about $831 million over the five-year period, the report stated.
Now, annual real personal income in the MSA totals about $4.64 billion, the report also stated.
“When I first ran in 2010, around 92,000 people lived in The Villages,” Scott told the Daily Sun. “It’s close to 115,000 people now. With all this additional land, I know more people are going to get to enjoy the experience of The Villages. And now there are jobs for building homes. There’s jobs for building roads. There’s jobs to work in the restaurants. There’s jobs in all the services that get provided. As all this happens, people who move down here like to invest in the state, too.”
So, continued prosperity appears to be a certainty, Scott said.
“We have about 350,000 people moving here a year (to Florida),” he said. “We’ve added almost 1.4 million jobs over the past six and half years. This is the place that everybody wants to be. I was just in Connecticut recruiting jobs, and I want to thank all the governors up there for raising taxes, because it clearly helps give people another reason to come down here on top of all the wonderful people who already live here.”
David Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 9066, or firstname.lastname@example.org.