The local economy by 2010, in spite of the Great Recession, had tripled in comparison to 30 years before. Business thrived in Gainesville. The big question today is: Will this happen once more between 2010 and 2040?
Stefan Rayer, head of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research demography program, released his population projections for Florida counties. Taking a look at his predictions can provide a better glimpse into what could be Gainesville in 2040.
For Alachua County, Rayer predicts the growth to be slower than from 1980 to 2010 falling from 63 percent to 24 percent. This could be explained by UF’s expansion decreasing over the years, however the baby boomers will more than double the number of 65 and older seniors. The Gainesville commuting zone, which includes Bradford, Dixie, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties, will remain the same. But, what exactly do all these numbers mean for the economy? Does slower population growth indicate slower economic growth?
According, to the Bureau’s demographers, the ratio of seniors to prime-age workers will double from 2010 to 44 percent in 2040. Because of the shift of ratio in seniors to prime-age labor force, the work force will begin serving seniors and other local residents in restaurants and nursing homes and fewer engineers and factory workers for goods to export.
Gainesville offers an attractive climate, a reasonable cost of living and a major research university. With a large university, a good climate and a low cost of living, we may draw more people here than projected from the Bureau projects. But, the real question is: Who will we attract here? Will most people be retiring boomers or technology workers and their families? It’s up to us to grow into an area much like The Villages plus a university or an area more like the Research Triangle Park?