Boomers fed up with Florida are moving to southern Appalachia, causing population increases in long-standing rural communities

  • Boomers who once flocked to Florida are increasingly leaving the state and moving to the southern Appalachians.

  • A recent Wall Street Journal report highlighted the so-called “halfbacks” who have settled in the region.

  • Many of the new arrivals sought refuge from the constant threat of extreme weather in Florida.

For decades, Florida has been a top destination for retirees looking to settle down while enjoying their golden years.

But despite the Sunshine State’s warm weather and lack of an individual income tax, a wave of wealthier baby boomers leaves the state for a newer destination: the southern Appalachians.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that many so-called “halfbacks” – or boomers who moved to Florida from the Northeast and Midwest before settling halfway around the area – are beginning to populate once heavily rural counties in areas that include southwest Virginia, northern Georgia and parts of North Carolina and South Carolina as well as parts of Alabama and Tennessee.

Many boomers moving to the southern Appalachians have also bypassed Florida entirely.

According to The Journal, the population in southern Appalachian counties that have retirement or recreation areas grew 3.8% from April 2020 to July 2022 — a rate well above the national average.

The changes have caused a kind of whiplash. Districts that were once characterized by kilometers of landscape are now experiencing sustainable development – newly built retirement communities with upscale amenities.

Big box stores, more common in larger cities and suburbs, have also crept further into southern Appalachia, where downtowns have long been the economic engines of many cities and towns. And with newer residents comes greater demand for government services as well as additional housing and roads.

The growth coincides with Georgia’s increasing importance on the national political stage, which will continue to become more important in the future one of the most hotly contested states in the 2024 presidential election.

In Dawson County, Georgia, where the county seat of Dawsonville is about 60 miles north of Atlanta, the population has grown in recent years – from about 27,000 people in 2020 to about 32,000 people in 2023. according to U.S. Census data.

According to The Journal, incomes in southern Appalachian counties considered recreation and retirement areas increased by an average of $10,095 from 2018 to 2021.

Retired Ed Helms and his wife, Johnnie, moved from living in Panama City Beach, Florida, to a gated community in north Georgia, part of Dawson and Pickens counties.

The couple wanted to leave Florida because of the threat of hurricanes, increasing traffic congestion and increased costs, The Journal reported. And while Ed Helms has encountered new development in north Georgia, he told the newspaper that it still pales in comparison to the growth he saw in Florida.

“Our property insurance went through the roof,” he said of living in Florida. “We were tired of not being able to find a place to sit in restaurants.”

“We wouldn’t go back for anything,” he added.

But some new residents worry that Dawson County is simply becoming a northern outpost of the vast Atlanta metropolitan area known for its diversity Suburban sprawl.

Billy Thurmond, a county native and chairman of the Dawson County Board of Commissioners, told The Journal that some newcomers are now preventing him from voicing their frustration with the ongoing development.

“People who moved here now want us to put up a gate and stop everyone else from moving here,” he told the newspaper. “Does not work like that.”

Read the original article Business Insider

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