No place in the nation is more attractive to retirees than Bradenton-Sarasota, according to a popular business news site.
Portfolio.com today named Bradenton-Sarasota the most popular retirement destination in the United States. The national news site for executives of small- to mid-size businesses looked at six indicators among 157 cities to determine where seniors 65 and older love to rest and relax.
The rankings are based on senior population, median age, seniors born out of state, incoming seniors, difference in out-of-state births and difference in incoming rates.
In Bradenton-Sarasota, seniors make up 26.81 percent of the combined cities’ population of 688,126. Senior citizens represent 12.9 percent of the nationwide population.
“In addition to warm cities, we’ve also seen that seniors are attracted to communities that have a significant population of retirees,” said J. Jennings Moss, editor of Portfolio.com. “This demonstrates that seniors will go to places that already have a comfortable infrastructure in place.”
Mary Lou Moore, 82, lived in Sarasota long before she retired from her career as a school principal. A quarter-century ago, she and her husband moved to Garden Lakes in Bradenton and never imagined living anywhere else.
“I’ve lived here 25 years and I love it,” Moore said. “I’m very happy. There’s so much to do. So many art and music events. You could be out every night enjoying some sort of program between the Manatee Players, the Sarasota Players, the Sarasota Orchestra.”
Business professionals throughout Manatee County say Portfolio.com’s notable list could go a long way in driving both retirees and tourists to the area.
“I think this study is right on,” said Alan Anderson, president of the Home Builders Association of Manatee Sarasota. “Especially with the downturn in the economy, the retiree’s money is not going as far as it used to.
“Retirees today are looking at smaller houses, but they still want the lifestyle, the neighborhoods for their retirement life and the amenities,” Anderson said. “That’s what we’re here to do.”
The Great Recession actually resulted in a population decline in Florida as the state lost 56,736 residents between April 2008 to April 2009, according to the Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research. From April 2009 to April 2010, the state gained 22,873.
Economist Henry Fishkind, principle of Fishkind & Associates, said tourism will be a major factor in bringing the state’s economy to recovery -- that’s how Florida gains new retirees.
“The keys to recovery in Sarasota-Bradenton will be tourism because that will lead to more retirement and that will lead to more housing and improvement in jobs,” Fishkind said.
Neil Spirtas, vice president of public policy and small business for the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, credits the quality of life in Bradenton-Sarasota for gaining a strong senior population.
Warm weather, beaches and leisure are among what the chamber promotes to small businesses considering a relocation to the area.
“People are seeing this is a place not only where they like to work, but to retire,” Spirtas said. “It’s a great compliment. Hopefully this will help us with our housing market.”
The local retirement population lends strong support to local retailers as well, said Candice McElyea, spokeswoman for Schroeder-Manatee Ranch.
Retirees and seasonal residents often help drive sales for shops along Lakewood Ranch Main Street, and McElyea said a growing retiree population will further bolster retail sales.
“To have a publication like this shine a spotlight on Lakewood Ranch in this area, you couldn’t ask for anything better than that -- especially when the Northeast and Midwest are getting pounded by snow,” McElyea said. “We live in paradise.”