Florida surpasses New York in the population (and branding) race

It’s official: Florida is now the third most populous state in the union, surpassing New York. This isn’t a surprise; the state has been forecast to reach this milestone for a couple years.

Miami and South Florida are fueling much of the growth: the population in Miami’s urban core has doubled in size — from 40,000 to more than 80,000 people — since 2000.

The region’s economy is humming on all cylinders as well.

Job numbers in Miami-Dade County are at their strongest levels since the Great Recession; tourism activity is at an all-time high; hotels are capturing the highest room rates of any major city in the country; the housing market is quickly nearing stability; real estate firms looking to pour tens of billions of dollars into the local economy are clamoring for real estate; and some of the world’s savviest business people are looking at the Magic City as more than a vacation spot (including more than a few from New York).

Private equity guru Barry Sternlicht put it this way in a recent interview with Bloomberg News: “I see Miami as the Singapore of the U.S.”

It’s easy to chalk population growth up to a rebounding economy, favorable tax policies and beautiful weather, but we think Florida’s global brand also has a lot to do with it.

Let’s face it: Florida is sexy. People want to live here. Companies want to do business here. And investors from around the world want to own a piece of the action.

It wasn’t always this way.

When Miami Vice debuted in 1984, the world’s perception of Florida was shaped by the neon lights of South Beach, fashion-forward wardrobes, bikini-clad models and flashy cars captured on camera (it’s only fitting that the original Ferrari Testarossa used in the show is now up for auction; asking price: a cool $1.75 million).

All the while, local residents knew very well that this made-for-TV image of Miami was far from realistic. Fast forward 30 years and it seems that the cosmopolitan, international city portrayed in Miami Vice was a self-fulfilling prophecy foretelling the Magic City of today.

Of course, Florida’s branding evolution has not come overnight. The state’s strength is the product of years of economic ups and downs (and the resilience needed to weather those storms); coordinated public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns on behalf of tourism bureaus and local municipalities; and the untold billions that have been spent by companies which stand to benefit from Florida’s growth.