The Villages Daily Sun

Strong Migration Trend Pushing Villages Growth

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Posted: Friday, December 15, 2017 8:00 am

“Westward Ho” could be the rally cry for Villagers like Jim and Babs Stendardo.

The couple is among the thousands of residents in Sumter County and The Villages who moved from Lake County over the years.

New Internal Revenue Service migration data indicates the number of Lake residents moving to Sumter, like the Stendardos, increased year-over-year by 23 percent in 2015-16.

Nearly 10 percent of the 10,000 people who moved to Sumter during that time frame — from throughout the world — relocated from Lake, according to IRS calculations.

For the Stendardos, the move to the Village of Fenney in Sumter met all aspects of the quality of life that originally attracted them to their former home in the Village of Silver Lake in Lake County.

“It was the same as the historic section of The Villages, with the old live oaks and the Spanish moss,” said Babs, who relocated with her husband three years ago to The Villages via Kentucky from suburban New York City.

Well-Established Trends

The Stendardos represent two sides of the same coin when it comes to migration.

First, they moved from another Florida county.

Just as in years past, the largest percentage of new residents in The Villages came from other Florida counties, the IRS data showed.

The top influx to The Villages came from Lake, Marion, Orange, Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Broward, Citrus, Pasco, Hernando, Pinellas, Lee and Monroe counties, accounting for 30 percent of the 2015-16 migration.

Expect an acceleration of the trend, according to the observations of Sumter County Commission Chairman Al Butler.

“With the recent storms, I have anecdotal information that people are moving from the Florida Keys and from along the coast to situations where insurance is not as expensive,” he said.

Second, the Stendardos typify another well-established trend in The Villages — families reuniting.

In their case, Babs’ moved to The Villages to be close to her sister, Pat Mihalik, of the Village of Sanibel.

Not too long ago, another sister, Theresa Minerick, moved three blocks away from Babs in Fenney.

“There are seven of us in our family, and we’re focused on getting all of us here,” Babs said.

Win for Wildwood

The annual release of the IRS data offers a snapshot of the growth in Sumter, and particularly its future impact on Wildwood, as The Villages expands south of State Road 44.

“We’re very, very fortunate that we’re working with a known quantity with a proven track record — The Villages Developer,” Wildwood Mayor Ed Wolf said about the new housing growth that serves this growing population. “There is no risk for the city going into this public-private partnership with The Villages. We could not develop (infrastructure) as fast as they require. They’re pretty much moving dirt and putting in utilities 24/7. I give all the credit in the world to our city staff who worked these public-private partnership deals, because it’s nothing but win-win for the city.”

Although the IRS data offers solid proof of the growth happening now in Sumter and The Villages, it does not count the many residents who may own or purchase homes in the county but use another residence up North as their address of record for federal tax returns.

In general, Sumter grew on a smaller scale but at a faster rate than Florida.

Total migration to Sumter was 42.8 percent greater in 2015-16 than the year before, the data showed.

That meant around 27 people moved to Sumter every day during that time period.

Put into perspective, the Census Bureau ranked The Villages metropolitan statistical area earlier this year as the fastest-growing MSA in the country with a population of 123,996.

What’s more, Sumter ranked as the seventh fastest-growing county in the nation, the Census data revealed.

On a larger scale, Florida’s total migration — 583,691 residents — grew at a 37.2 percent rate in 2015-16, the IRS data showed.

That meant about 1,600 residents moved every day to Florida, according to the IRS data.

Well-Funded IRAs

Although not a pure indicator of income transfer, the IRS data offers a glimpse into the new residents’ earnings through their adjusted gross income — or gross income minus deductions as permitted by law.

Those 10,000 new residents in Sumter filed 5,730 federal tax returns that claimed total AGI of about $491 million or about $49,100 per taxpayer, according to the IRS data.

So, that translates into about 1.75 persons per tax return for a possible average household income of nearly $86,000.

That figure did not surprise Butler, even through it far exceeds the current Census Bureau estimates for 2016 in Sumter and The Villages MSA, which includes all of Sumter but not The Villages in Lake or Marion counties. They are counted in separate MSAs.

“It tells us that the newer folks make more money,” he said.

Such a level of household income does not seem out of the ordinary to Butler, who earned a degree in engineering at the University of Florida and retired with 40 years experience as a manufacturing executive.

Many of the people who retire now differ greatly from residents who retired 10, 20 or 30 years ago with company pensions and their savings, he said.

Workers typically retire today with well-funded individual retirement accounts and other retirement savings plans, said Butler, of the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Miona.

“There’s not as many folks on a pension as there used to be,” he said.

Big Financial Benefit

One element of this overall migration growth encourages Butler and Wolf.

“What you’ll see from this are the commercial businesses that recognize this growth and see Sumter and The Villages as an opportunity for expansion,” Butler said. “You’ll probably even see more upscale retail and restaurant offerings, as well. It’s really good for the area.”

The proof of Butler’s statement can be found in what’s happening in Wildwood, especially in The Villages’ section of the community.

Sometime next year, work should begin on the 285,000-square-foot Center for Advanced Healthcare at Brownwood, a joint venture The Villages announced this year in partnership with Anchor Health Properties.

Designed as a bedless hospital, the speciality care center will complement plans for the adjoining Brownwood Hotel & Spa, which will include a Wolfgang Puck-licensed restaurant and conference facilities.

Brownwood also remains a hot market with Shooters World starting development on its 50,000-square-foot small arms retail store and shooting range.

That means jobs and additional expansion opportunities for other retailers, restaurants and service providers, Wolf said.

“Our businesses, of course, are going to see a big financial benefit from the additional population,” he said. “We’re seeing more and more work and business opportunities for folks who have been here for a while, as well as the shopping and dining opportunities for our residents with the additional construction in The Villages.”

David R. Corder is a senior writer with The Villages Daily Sun. He can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5241, or david.corder@thevillagesmedia.com.