Florida “Half-Backs” Fueling North Carolina 55+ Relocation Market

CHARLOTTE, NC (Oct. 6, 2010) – The erosion of Florida’s famed resort retirement industry has helped pack up and send almost 40,000 people aged 55+ into North Carolina from Florida this decade and close to half of those transplants are aged 65+.
Oct. 7, 2010 - PRLog -- Charlotte, NC (October 6, 2010) – The erosion of Florida’s famed resort retirement industry has helped pack up and send almost 40,000 people aged 55+ into North Carolina from Florida this decade and close to half of those transplants are aged 65+. The 55+ relocation pipeline has helped import hundreds of millions of wealth and spending to the state, according to NARA, a Charlotte-based national trade group.

“Studies have shown that an incoming typical retiree couple has the equivalent economic impact as 3.7 manufacturing or industrial jobs to a community,” said National Active Retirement Association (NARA) Executive Director Dan Owens. “North Carolina has significantly benefited financially from retirees resettling in the state from other regions of the country”

NC state government has not actively pursued retirement as an industry like Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi has, according to Owens. “I think we’ve left a long of wealth and spending on the table – especially in rural areas of the state – by not ramping up retiree attraction efforts,” he said.

Anecdotal reports have surfaced in recent years that Florida’s hot weather, multiple hurricanes, aggressive immigration and rising home prices have taken the burnish off what has been America’s golden retirement paradise for five decades. In the 1990s, Florida attracted a full one-quarter of all retirees leaving a state for another state. Today, reports are that number has sunk to somewhere between 15 and 20 percent.

Statistics derived from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) indicate that Florida has emerged as the overwhelming source of older new NC residents.  Assuming that almost all new residents eventually get a driver’s license, NCDMV data is seen as a close approximation of relocation statistics, especially between census reports.

For instance, NCDMV can track the age and source of new residents. Analysis of DMV information reveals that through 2000-2009, 38,188 new 55+ drivers gave up Florida licenses and received new North Carolina licenses. Of those, 18,293 were registered as being 65+.

The total 55+ migration to North Carolina from all states in the last few years has ranged from a 10-year high of just under 30,000 new residents in 2006, the height of the homebuilding market, to a low of just under 21,000 in 2009. In 2006, a high of over 11,000 new 65+ new residents settled in the state from other states. This number dwindled down to 8,000 last year.

“The average person might not think that receiving 8,000 new 65+ residents in 2009 is significant, but with 50+ Americans controlling over 75 percent of all financial wealth, just a few of these relocating retiree couples can have a significant impact on a town or suburb,” said Owens. He added that many older new residents also get involved in the community as mentors, part time employees, volunteers and civic or church leaders.

According to NCDMV data from 2000-2009, Wake slightly edged out Mecklenburg as the state’s most popular retirement county among those aged 55+, as well as those aged 65+. The top 10 NC counties attracting retirees in 2009 were similar throughout the decade:  Brunswick (Wilmington), Buncombe (Asheville), Guilford (Greensboro), Henderson (Hendersonville), New Hanover (Wilmington), Forsyth (Winston-Salem) and Union counties were on both lists.

Cumberland was higher on the 55+ retiree attraction list, most probably because Fayetteville attracts career military who retire earlier. The Fayetteville economy has also gotten a boost from the expansion of the mission at Fort Bragg.

Moore (Pinehurst) was higher on the 65+ list, most probably because of the lure of a great resort, golf lifestyle, Owens said. Golf has declined as a relocation driver among younger retirees, he added.

Owens is not surprised at the large numbers exiting Florida for North Carolina.

“During a trip to the Florida Keys just a few years ago, I was astounded to be quizzed by a number of prominent people about housing and relocation once they learned I was from North Carolina,” he said. “I also saw regional developers and retirement community operators advertise in Florida right after the hurricanes with great success.

“Retirement officials in Texas and Tennessee – both with formal state-funded retiree relocation programs – have reportedly lured large numbers of Florida residents or Florida retirement prospects to their states,” Owens said.

New York was the second place “feeder” of mature new residents, producing 26,319 new 55+ residents and 8,988 new 65+ residents from 2000-2009. Rounding out the top 10 in most years were Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Texas and Connecticut. Michigan and Massachusetts also made appearances in the top 10 some years.

The topic of towns, cities and states formally attracting retirees as an economic development effort has been discussed by state officials for years. Legislation was passed to create a NC Certified Retirement Communities program several years ago, but it was never funded.

NARA will be hosting a number of national speakers that will be discussing the new Retiree Attraction industry Oct. 20-22 at their annual conference in Columbia, SC. Texas’ state retiree attraction director. (www.retirementlivingnews). Sherri Gothart Barron will be in Columbia discussing that state’s success and what new retirees have meant economically to Texas communities.

“North Carolina has been a top 5 national retiree relocation market in the past, but there are indications that even our state may be losing out to more aggressive and focused states,” said Owens. “Budgets are tight, but luring retirees needs to be viewed like luring new manufacturing plants and new workers. You’ve got to cast the net to catch the fish,” he said.

Owens noted that billions in home sales this decade can be traced back to out of state retirees buying primary and second homes. The added benefit is that these transplants bring lots of income, spending power and taxes, but don't require school services, he said.


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The National Active Retirement Association (NARA) is a 10-year old, grassroots trade organization that organizes and helps marketers, builders and professionals, businesses and organizations that provide products, housing and services to people age 55+. The 11th Annual NARA "Power Tools" Conference will feature noted national experts in retiree attraction, marketing and advertising, building, designing, financing and selling homes, retirement communities, goods and services to mature consumers and their parents. There is not another conference that blends technology, sales, building and even a discussion on the future of Social Security - which will affect all businesses. This 2 1/2 day event will give any business a clear understanding of demographics and how they impact business and governments. The NARA Conference will also give a business person great networking opportunties.
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