HERNANDO COUNTY - Every time a blast of cold winter weather strikes the Northeast or Midwest, fed-up people there decide to move to the Sunshine State.
David Hamilton, operations manager for the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board, said one only can imagine how many of them decided enough was enough these past few ice-cold days and are making plans to move to Florida - and, perhaps, Hernando County.
Even before this week's record cold snaps, Florida was inching closer to New York in population and is poised to become the third most populous state.
How much of that growth fill find its way into Hernando won't be known until the U.S. Census Bureau releases individual county data.
Hamilton said he does not know when those local stats will be available. But Hernando, he said, would seem to possess the necessary qualifications for people seeking a desirable community: affordable housing, quality of life and a semi-tropical climate.
"Hernando County has to be in the crosshairs of that community," Hamilton said. "Our housing still hasn't jumped in price like many of the South Florida communities that are more affluent. Gas prices aren't totally astronomical."
Florida has an estimated 19,552,860 residents, up more than 230,000 from last year and 750,000 more than in the 2010 census count. The numbers are estimated as of July 1.
Hernando's growth has not increased significantly in the last three years, and the most recent Census data shows 173,422 people living here as of 2012. That is up from 173,075 in 2011 and 173,038 in 2010.
Many experts consider Florida's climate and lack of a state personal income tax to be peak attractions for migrants of all ages.
With an estimated 19,651,127 residents, New York gained about 75,000 residents in the past year, less than a third of Florida's increase. And while New York City continues to attract newcomers, regions of upstate New York have seen stagnant and declining populations.
County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said Hernando is well positioned for population growth he believes is coming, especially as the national economy improves.
That's why the county, in the last few years, has put an emphasis on infrastructure improvements, including the widening of State Road 50.
"I think the downturn in the economy the last few years has prevented people that ordinarily would have retired from retiring and pushed it back," Russell said. "We're not getting that influx of retirees we typically enjoy."
In the 1990s, Russell said Hernando led the state in population growth.
With an emphasis on economic development, Hernando will be attractive again not only to seniors but to younger families, he said.
It's important, he added, that county officials be ahead of the curve when that population growth occurs.
"I think we're well poised for it," Russell said. "And it's coming."
Here are some U.S. Census statistics for Hernando County:
? About 81.2 percent of the population is Caucasian (Florida: 57 percent); 10.9 Hispanic or Latino (Florida: 23.2 percent); 5.5 percent is black (Florida: 16.6 percent)
? Females in Hernando County outnumber males by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent (Florida: 51 percent to 49 percent)
? There are 26.8 percent of the people age 65 and older (Florida: 18.2 percent)
? The median household income is $41,098 (Florida: $47,309)
? The average worker commutes 30.1 minutes (Florida: 25.8 minutes)
? Among people age 25 and older, about 15.7 percent of the population has a bachelor's degree or higher degree (Florida: 26.2 percent)
Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.