Palm Bay-Melbourne ranks No. 3 in growth among U.S. cities in new U-Haul study – Florida Today
Support local journalism. Unlock unlimited digital access to floridatoday.com Click here and subscribe today.
A roughly 50-mile stretch of U.S. 192 links two of America’s hottest growth markets — Palm Bay-Melbourne and Kissimmee-St. Cloud — according to U-Haul moving data throughout 2021.
The Palm Bay-Melbourne corridor has rocketed into third place in the annual U-Haul Growth Index, while Kissimmee-St. Cloud ranked No. 1.
This index ranks the nation’s 25 top growth cities by calculating the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a market, versus trucks leaving that market, over the course of a calendar year.
People coming to Palm Bay-Melbourne in one-way U-Haul trucks jumped 32% year-over-year, the moving company reported Tuesday. The southern Space Coast market cracked the index in 2020 as the No. 23 growth city, then leaped 20 spots into third place.
U-Haul analyzed migration trends by examining more than 2 million one-way truck contracts at more than 23,000 locations, said Cal Conner, the company’s eastern Florida president.
“I’m a resident of Brevard County myself. I’ve lived here for about 22 years all over Melbourne-Palm Bay, and now the Grant area. I’ve seen all this growth coming in over the years — and now it’s just really ballooned,” he said.
Conner cited economic expansion by companies such as L3Harris, Leonardo DRS, Northrop Grumman and SpaceX.
“It’s bringing a lot of people in. Even though a lot of them are working up at the Cape, they’re choosing to live down in the Melbourne-Palm Bay area,” Conner said.
U-Haul’s Top 10 growth cities:
Palm Bay Mayor Rob Medina said his city’s initiatives, including a streamlined building-permitting process and the road-paving program, have led to an increase in single-family infill lots and new subdivision projects.
“Palm Bay remains an affordable place to live, coupled with recreational amenities, quality of life and community pride,” Medina said in an email.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Palm Bay business community continues to thrive and our major employers, such as L3Harris, have expanded their workforce. As the space and defense industries expand on the Space Coast, the city of Palm Bay strives to leverage development and workforce opportunities that attract the likes of industry leaders Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk to compete for the No. 1 destination for relocation in 2022,” Medina said in the email.
Ten Florida markets ranked among U-Haul’s Top 25 growth cities, including Daytona Beach (11th), Port St. Lucie (13th), Brandon-Riverview (19th) and Ocala (24th).
“Florida has always been a destination location for retirees, but more so (in 2021), I think a lot of people took early retirements and decided to come down,” Mario Martinez, U-Haul area district vice president of southern Florida, said in a news release.
“There are many other reasons why people are coming to Florida, and have come in previous years. We have lower cost (of living) than other states. There is no state income tax — that’s a huge factor,” Martinez said.
“The warm weather. Basically, we have summer weather all year long. Attractions. Our beaches. The activities. There’s just so much to do. Jobs that are available play a very important part in people moving into Florida. And during this pandemic for the past two years, we’ve also pretty much been open the entire time,” he said.
Related: Speech highlights Brevard’s economic boon, ranging from Terran Orbital to Costco to hotels
And: Space Coast ranks 135th out of 150 metro areas for single millennials, new study shows
Raleigh-Durham topped the annual U-Haul Growth Index in 2019, and North Port ranked No. 1 in 2020. Kissimmee-St. Cloud ranked second in growth both of those years.
Brevard County’s unemployment rate declined in November for the fifth straight month, falling to 3.4%. The county jobless rate stood at 4.0% in November 2020 — and 13.2% in April 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U-Haul Growth Index joins a handful of lists touting Brevard County’s recent economic-development trend:
However, Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville ranks only 135th out of the nation’s 150 largest metropolitan areas for single millennials, per a Porch Group study.
That study examined percentage of single millennials, gender ratio among millennials, millennial share of the population, and food and entertainment, among other metrics.
Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey hailed the U-Haul ranking as “great, great news.”
“I also caution everyone that, with growth comes growing pains. And we have to double down on our infrastructure and our issues that do come with growth,” Alfrey said.
“We have to continue to address homelessness and infrastructure, and improve our parks and our quality of life,” he said.
Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY (for more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or [email protected]. Twitter: @RickNeale1
Support local journalism. Subscribe today.