More People Moved to Polk County


Polk County, located between Tampa and Orlando, was the nation’s top place to move from within the United States.

BARTOW, Fla. — Polk County was the county more people moved to last year than any other county in the U.S., according to the estimates.

More than 29,300 people moved last year to the county located between Tampa and Orlando, two metro areas where housing has grown increasingly pricey, and the county is considered a cheaper alternative. In short order, Polk County has come to have fewer orange groves along Interstate 4 and more subdivisions for local service workers as well as distribution warehouses for on-demand deliveries for residents in both metropolitan areas.

Almost all the growth in Polk County — 88% — consisted of people moving from another part of the U.S. rather than from abroad, according to the 2023 population estimates.

“Subdivision growth has been springing up and it happens in such a manner that you don’t always notice it. But when you are stuck in traffic, that’s when you really pay attention that it’s going on,” Matt Joyner, a seventh-generation Polk County resident, said about the influx of new residents.

Only four other counties — Harris and Montgomery counties in metro Houston; Collin County in metro Dallas; and Maricopa County, home to Phoenix — grew by more people, thanks to their higher numbers of natural increase, or births outnumbering deaths.

With more than 62,000 acres of citrus groves, Polk County is one of the leading producers of oranges in Florida. The state’s citrus industry in recent years has been squeezed between a fast-spreading bacteria that has attacked the health of trees all over the state and relentless growth that has spilled over as its metro areas have expanded.

Despite that, Polk County has held onto its citrus heritage. Most of the growth has been concentrated in the northeastern part of the county, just a few miles from Walt Disney World in metro Orlando. But many of the citrus growers there who sold their land to subdivision builders have just moved to the southern part of the county, where citrus groves are still plentiful, said Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual, a growers’ advocacy group.

New residents to Polk County have something picturesque to see if they drive around the county’s groves right now — white flowers on citrus trees and a sweet aroma in the air.

“Everywhere you go right now, the groves are snow white and the smell is sweet,” Joyner said. “It reminds you of the old days.”

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