FORT MYERS, Fla. — Southwest Florida is growing fast, and the numbers prove it. According to the Census Bureau, Fort Myers is the sixth fastest-growing city in the nation.
The reason for the growth, it appears to be about location. When other parts of Florida boomed, Mayor Kevin Anderson says the city was right behind.
Data shows from July 2020 to 2021, Fort Myers grew by nearly seven-percent.
"Our son is talking about coming down to South Florida," said Anna Hinkling, who's in town from Illinois visiting family. "I could see him coming down here. It’s a slower lifestyle and there’s a lot of variety and things to do."
License plates from across the United States can be seen in downtown Fort Myers: Texas, Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and Illinois.
Numbers obtained by Fox 4 from the Florida Department of Licensing show more people from Illinois than any other state have moved to Lee County during the last five years. In Charlotte County — it's New Yorkers.
"Growth is a double-edged sword because as much as you prepare, you can get caught off guard a bit," Anderson said.
He repeated what he's told Fox 4 before: he wishes prior administrations would've planned better.
"I think we need to look further down the road, so instead of just trying to meet the needs of the next three years or the next five years, we should be looking down the road the next 10, 15, 20 years," Anderson explained.
The City of Fort Myers, he says, is trying to play catch up between infrastructure and housing. Anderson said there are about 10,000 housing units in the works between planning and construction.
"What we can do to help is speed up the permitting processes, make sure we’re not being an obstacle to those projects," he said.
So what makes Fort Myers the place to be and why do people love it so much? We brought those questions to people out and about on Friday afternoon.
"It’s an amazing atmosphere, great downtown, the locals are great," said Bri Bargo, who moved here from Kentucky as a traveling nurse.
"The weather, the water, everything. The west coast of Florida is the best coast," said Mark Potter, a born and raised Floridian.
Fort Myers isn't the only local city to make it on the fastest-growing list.
North Port comes in at number nine.