Lakewood Ranch Herald

Bradenton, Manatee County boast solid growth rates, census figures show

MANATEE -- Bradenton showed strong growth between 2013 and 2014, adding an estimated 1,213 residents, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Both the city of Bradenton and Manatee County added more residents than did the city of Sarasota and Sarasota County, respectively, but still trailed their southern neighbors in total population.

Manatee County's 2014 estimated population was listed at 351,746, up 9,329 over 2013. Sarasota County's estimated 2014 population was 396,962, up 6,720 over 2013. County population estimates were released earlier this year.

In 2014, Bradenton's estimated population was 52,769, compared with Sarasota's estimated 54,214.

Both cities trailed North Port, in Sarasota County, which currently has an estimated population of 60,380.

Much of Manatee County's growth took place in the Parrish-North River area, and in Lakewood Ranch, Heritage Harbour, and other new East Manatee neighborhoods.

There are 23,095 homes approved or pending approval in Manatee's North River-Parrish area, and 17,958 for the greater Lakewood Ranch area, the Herald recently reported.

"There are a lot more houses approved than are going to be built in the next few years. We are not sorry to see it coming, as long as we can preserve the rural character of the area and that's what we are trying to do," said Cookie Jordan,

secretary of the Parrish Civic Association.

"We are getting more medical services out here, which I think helps a lot of people, but the biggest thing we need is restaurants. We have a new Chilis in Ellenton, and hoped we would get an Outback, Longhorn or something like that," Jordan said.

Mac Owen, an East Manatee resident who lives on Upper River Road, has been a long-time proponent of building infrastructure early to serve the new residents moving to the area.

"By all means let the big-money people pay for the roads, sewers, water supplies, and schools. We have to build ahead. The prices are unbelievable on the new houses. If the developers are making that kind of money, that have to build the infrastructure," Owen said. "The county is always way behind."

The new growth signals a recovering economy, after the Great Recession put the damper on new home construction for several years.

"It's just proof of the economic recovery," said Karen Stewart, economic development program manager for Manatee County. "Manatee County is a great place to live and work, enjoys a strong business community."

It also benefits from the strength of the local tourist industry, she said, adding, "All drive new people to our area."

Manatee County's other incorporated cities did not grow last year at the same pace as Bradenton.

Palmetto's estimated population in 2014 grew by 74 residents, or 0.56 percent, to 13,082. It has grown by almost 3.8 percent since 2010.

On Anna Maria Island, there was also minimal growth in the three municipalities.

Holmes Beach's population last year grew by 54 residents, or 1.33 percent, to 4,098. Since 2010, it has grown by a total of 6.8 percent.

In Bradenton Beach, the population in 2014 grew by 9 residents, or 0.75 percent, to 1,219. This decade, it has grown by a total of 4.1 percent.

And in the city of Anna Maria, the population last year grew by 32 residents, or 2.13 percent, to 1,626. Since 2010, it has grown by 8.18 percent -- making it the fastest growing city in the county this decade.

Last year, Longboat Key's population, which is split between Manatee and Sarasota counties, grew by 76 residents, or 1.08 percent, to an estimated 7,143. Since the 2010 census, it has increased by a total of 3.7 percent.

Tamara Schells, a planner/demographer for Sarasota County, said gains in population growth there results from increasing in-migration.

"We don't have any growth from the birth rate because we typically have more deaths than births every year," she said.

"There's more people moving here, and a lot of that is retirees and snowbirds, but obviously an increase in families as well," she added.

Two-thirds of the growth was in the south-county area, including the city of North Port and some in Venice as well, based on an analysis of new-resident construction, she said.

That's a different pattern than demographers had seen in years before the recession, she added.

"The north (portion of Sarasota County) has historically received more of the growth, but there are a lot of projects in the pipeline in the county," she said. "So that area could take off too; we could see some additional growth there as well over several years."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.