Three SWFL cities among 15 fastest growing in nation

Lee Herald Favicon 16Analysts from WalletHub have ranked three cities in Lee County among the top 15 growing cities in the nation based on economic growth.

The personal finance website ranked Lehigh Acres, Fort Myers, and Cape Coral 3nd, 7th, and 15th respectively. The analysts evaluated 515 cities across the nation on two important dimensions “Sociodemographics”, which mainly focuses on population growth, and “Jobs & Economy”, which mainly focuses on factors like household income and number of business startups. In all, 15 relevant metrics were measured by pulling economic data from 2010 to 2016 and given a weighted average to determine the rankings.

Cities were also categorized by size, with large cities being those with 300,000 people or more, medium size cities ranging between 10,000 and 300,000, and small cities containing under 100,000. Only the city proper was considered, no metro areas were included for the purpose of size.

Fort Myers ranked second for growth in small cities, while Lehigh Acres appeared third on the list of growth for medium size cities as well as for overall population growth. In addition, Fort Myers boasted the nation’s highest job growth in a tie with Frisco, Texas. The city is also in a three-way tie for highest decrease in poverty rate, which declined 2.92% during the seven years evaluated by the study.

Booming economic growth is great news for many, but can create real challenges as cities attempt to cope with the influx of residence. Professor Stephen J. Conroy, an associate dean for the school of economics at the University of San Diego, explained that infrastructure, public schools, and housing can all be pressure point for a growing city.

“The housing stock is essentially fixed or growing slowly over time, so rapid population increases can cause temporary housing shortages,” said Conroy. “As housing inventories fall, prices rise, causing spikes in home prices and rental rates. Affordability can become an issue, and some at the lower end of the housing ladder may either have to crowd into smaller spaces, move somewhere else, or end up homeless.

“Imagine a situation where population growth is caused by the introduction of a new industry in town, which pays high salaries and wages. Those who move to the city to be close to work and receive the high-paying salaries are able to afford housing and may, in the process, push out legacy renters.”

Other experts interviewed by WalletHub listed transportation, environmental impact, and cultural sustainability as some of the key issues facing rapidly growing municipalities.

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