Seeing as Palm Coast, Fla., didn't even exist until seven years ago, you can be excused if you've never heard of it. But you should remember the name.
Palm Coast, just a short drive from Jacksonville, owns the distinction of being the fastest-growing town in the United States and is a big reason why Flagler County, where it's located, is the fastest-growing county. Since 2000, the city's population has doubled from 32,732 to about 60,000 today.
Beaches and golf courses lure in retirees looking for a relaxed lifestyle (Palm Coast got its start as a retirement community in the 1970s, before the residents decided to form a municipality in 1999). And its proximity to several prestigious colleges, including schools Embry-Riddle University and Stetson, has proved a draw for well-to-do families.
Because Palm Coast is so young, however, it's barely drawn any attention from commercial developers — until very recently. “The folks who came here were used to a mature community, but we didn't have any malls or places to go out to dinner,” says Ira Corliss, economic development coordinator for the town. A few big boxes have now arrived, though. Wal-Mart set up shop first (naturally) and now Lowe's has come. Target will also be opening a store there soon. But a few big boxes won't be enough to sate demand, especially since the population is expected to continue to blossom.
Palm Coast officials say they are in talks with several developers about the possibility of a mall and the town would also like to see a lifestyle center in the area. But these would be no run-of-the-mill shopping venues. Corliss says that Palm Coast is really in need of upscale retailers, like Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's and Saks Fifth Avenue. “There is a lot of quiet money here and there is nothing east of us and nothing west of us that would serve that need,” he notes.
Aside from retail, the town is determined to keep growing its infrastructure. There are plans to bring in a research park and a new continuing care retirement community. Among the town's main business targets are mid-market technology firms. Currently, the biggest local employer is Palm Coast Data, a product fulfillment supplier for the publishing industry.
- Palm Coast didn't exist until the turn of the 21st century. In late 1999, residents voted to incorporate and it offically became its own city on Dec. 31, 1999, just in time to ring in the new millennium.
- Research by the University of Florida indicates that Palm Coast will experience the highest rate of job growth in the state between 1995 and 2010.
- Not only is Palm Coast the fastest-growing city in the country, but Flagler County, where Palm Coast is located, is the fastest-growing county. Palm Coast has gone from 32,000 residents in 2000 to more than 60,000 at the end of 2006.
- There is currently 33.3 square feet of retail per person in Flagler County, just a little below the national average of 36.5 square feet of retail per person, according to CoStar data.
- Flagler County contains 2.8 million square feet of retail, according to CoStar data, or roughly about as much selling space as in the King of Prussia Mall.
- The median household income in Palm Coast is $46,500 and the per capital income in Flagler County is $25,109.
- Residents of Palm Coast commute an average of 25 minutes to work.
- Overall, 33.5 percent of residents have some college education,although only 12.3 percent have attained a bachelor's degree or higher.