US Census: SWFL grew in population, diversity over past 10 years

Reporter: Sydney Persing Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Downtown Fort Myers. Credit: WINK News.

The 2020 census data is out, and it shows Southwest Florida’s population is booming.

The new data shows, over the past 10 years, Southwest Florida gained more than 220,000 more residents in the region — between Lee, Charlotte and Collier counties. Lee County gained the most residents with 140,000.

“As population grows, we should be able to attract more businesses,” said Amir Neto, the director of FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute.

That could include businesses such as IKEA, which targets areas with more than 1 million people.

“Not only these big businesses, but also attracting smaller businesses,” Neto said.

Along with growth, the population is also changing. Southwest Florida is becoming increasingly more diverse.

“We’ve seen minority groups like the Black population, the Hispanic population increase,” Neto said.

The share of non-white residents in Lee and Collier nearly doubled from 17% to 31%.

Charlotte County’s share jumped from 10% to 16%.

“I notice that they becoming more open, more friendly, more sensitive,” said Leonardo Garcia, the founder of Multicultural Centre of Southwest Florida.

Increasing diversity is Garcia’s life’s work.

“That diversity that makes our community stronger,” Garcia said. “We are family. We are human beings.”

Neto told us there are a number of economic studies that show the correlation between diversity and growth. He also added, as we have an older demographic, we’ll need to continue to rely on migration, international and domestic to continue that growth.

Neto says diversity boosts our economy the same as the population increase does.

“They will have different skills, abilities, perspectives,” Neto said. “It’s this fusion of knowledge from diversity that we see really sparks economic growth.”

MORE: U.S. Census Bureau – 2020 Census

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