There will be Star Trek-style food replicators and travel will be as simple as stepping into a transporter pod. OK, not really, but what will Manatee County look like in the year 2037?
The answers are something Manatee County hopes to find out in a “Manatee County Back to the Future” style project to meet growth goals based on real data during the 20-year period from 1997 until now.
For Manatee County Deputy Administrator John Osborne, it’s a fun – but serious – project.
“Manatee County has been blessed with geography, business and leadership,” Osborne said. “We’ve been able to do a lot of creative things here and the county had a conceptual plan even before I-75 came along. We’ve planned for a grid roadway system and have always had a growth plan. We’ve done a great job with infrastructure for a growing community, have a very good water and sewer system.”
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Osborne, who started with the county in 1997, said he remembers driving around the county when it was much more agricultural in nature. Since then, long-term plans have to come fruition, like the 44th Avenue expansion, the construction of the Fort Hamer Bridge, Robinson Preserve expansion, the creation of an advanced traffic management center, complete streets, and key changes to the county’s codes and comprehensive plan, to name a few.
According to the U.S. Census, Manatee County will have a population of 500,000 in 2037. It has grown from 300,000 to 375,000 in the past few years. There are some interesting trends ahead, Osborne said.
“As a county, we are growing older with the Baby Boomers, but as time moves on the millennials are coming around as the population, so we’ll see the median age decline,” Osborne said. “Home ownership will continue to decline as we become more of a rental economy and household sizes will increase because of the cost of housing where more folks will be living at home longer.”
Osborne said the future face of employment will change dramatically as technology advances and as more people look into technical schools rather than traditional universities, more people are likely to work contractual jobs and multiple part-time jobs rather than traditional 8-hour jobs. Technology and virtual offices also are on the rise, allowing for more people to work from home.
So what does Manatee County look like in 2037? It’s hard to say, but the county wants to make sure you have some say in it.
“We want to engage the community in discussion and that starts here today,” County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said. “We would like to take this presentation to the chamber retreat for the business community and then take it out into the communities and talk to folks.”
Hunzeker said the project began in 2012, but a sluggish recession forced the county to focus on other areas of need. But with the economy recovering, he said it was time the county began looking well down the road in planning for future growth.
“There are going to be some needs,” Hunzeker said. “The landfill will be closing around that time and, sooner rather than later, we need to figure out where a new landfill will be. We have a jail in a precarious position. Does it stay or does it go somewhere else in the next 20 years? What do we do about any number of things?”