Growth took on a new perspective last week in a report about the increase in the number of businesses in ZIP code 32163 south of County Road 466A to State Road 44.

Over a five-year period ended in 2016, the number of new businesses in that ZIP grew sevenfold, by 627 percent, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau data.

This translates into a considerable economic impact, considering the estimated annual payroll that those employees then spend either in Sumter County or elsewhere in towns nearby.

Year-over-year annual payroll in ZIP 32163 grew 11.3 percent to $42.1 million for the year ended in 2016, the latest Census data showed. 

That growth compares with a 6.1 percent increase to $235 million in ZIP 32162, which extends north from CR 466A in The Villages of Sumter to County Road 42 in The Villages of Marion County; and a 7.8 percent increase to $337 million in ZIP 32159, which includes all of Lady Lake and its portion of The Villages.

The trend is even more pronounced in Sumter, according to the latest federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data. It showed that all annual payroll in Sumter grew by 28.4 percent to about $1.03 billion over the same five-year period.

Sumter’s annual payroll probably grew year over year in 2017 by at least 6 percent, if the federal bureau’s estimates for the first three quarters remain constant through the fourth quarter, which has not been released yet.

Also: Business growth south of SR 44 is about to get a boost from one of the newest and most anticipated entrepreneurial ventures. The Villages Grown, the Developer’s controlled organic agricultural project, earned an endorsement last week from Wildwood Special Magistrate W. Grant Watson, serving as the city’s Planning & Zoning Board. Watson found sufficiency in the Developer’s application to rezone about 86 acres of land to agricultural use from age-restricted use at the southwest corner of State Road 44 and Morse Boulevard. The Developer plans to create a greenhouse capable of producing the highest quality organic produce with high nutrient levels for wholesale and possible retail sales. In a related action, Watson also found sufficiency in the Developer’s application for a site plan to build an adjoining 30,464-square-foot processing plant on about 6 acres to support The Villages Grown greenhouse operations. City staff noted in its evaluation that The Villages Grown will “not create additional water and sewer demand, traffic congestion or school facility impacts.” Both applications will require approval by the Wildwood City Commission prior to starting construction.

Also: All of this new business growth thrives on residential development, and the Developer moved a step closer last week to introducing a planned new village on 514 acres at the southeast corner of SR 44 and Morse Boulevard. The Developer earned an endorsement from the Wildwood special magistrate on a site plan application for the Village of Southern Oaks Phase 6A master plan, a mixed-used residential community directly south of Rohan Recreation Center. Entitlements would permit up to 500 dwelling units, a residential recreation area and an unspecified amount of commercial space at the SR 44 frontage. The plans also specify the location of a golf cart bridge that would directly connect the new village to Rohan and The Villages multimodal trail network. Plans for Phase 6A require the city commission’s final approval.

Also: The integration of all of this residential, commercial and recreational planning requires a public safety component. And the special magistrate also found sufficiency in the Developer’s application to build District Public Safety Station No. 46 on the east side of the Morse Boulevard expansion (formerly CR 468) and about three-quarters of a mile south of SR 44. The Developer now requires final city commission approval to construct a 10,282-square-foot public safety building on the 3.5-acre site.

Also: When considering all this growth, factor in the Developer’s recent purchase of 5,600 acres south of Southern Oaks, on the east side of CR 501 and on both north and south sides of CR 470. The existing development entitlements on that property, which the city commission approved 13 years ago when it annexed that acreage, would permit up to 22,000 homes and up to 2.3 million square feet of commercial and 654,000 square feet of office and institutional uses. That expansion combines with the entitlements the Developer secured to build up to 14,000 homes on about 8,000 acres in and around the villages of Fenney and Southern Oaks. And water use and traffic studies associated with those projects indicate the expansion will have less impact than the entitlements the city commission approved 13 years ago based on the Developer’s advanced stormwater and water reuse infrastructure and a contained traffic system that relies heavily on multimodal use.


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