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The economic draws of Florida made it the fastest-growing U.S. state in 2022, topping 22 million people, with predictions that it may reach 30 million within a decade.Scott McIntyre/The New York Times News Service

Gus Carlson is a New York-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.

The enormous SUV with the distinctive yellow New York licence plates cruised slowly down the long line of cars waiting patiently to pick up students at the elementary school in West Palm Beach, then nosedived into a paper-thin opening to cut in line.

The horn honking and shouting that ensued from outraged parents are the sounds of the new Florida, where a migration of full-time residents and businesses from northern states, particularly New York, is causing a cultural collision.

One exasperated parent watching the fracas at the school sighed. The best thing about New Yorkers is they used to go home at Easter, he said. Now they stay all year long.

Like the old song says: Call some place paradise, kiss it goodbye. Florida and other states were once considered paradise by some – but even paradise can lose its appeal when it gets crowded.

The economic draws of Florida made it the fastest-growing U.S. state in 2022, topping 22 million people, with predictions that it may reach 30 million within a decade. Texas, too, has swelled, with Californians seeking lower taxes and a friendlier business environment.

Meanwhile, New York and California have seen historically high rates of defection. More than 300,000 people left New York State between 2020 and 2021, according to the U.S. Census, with comparable leakage this year.

Everyone has an opinion on the contributing factors – weather, taxes, politics, even pandemic-driven remote work. If you can work anywhere, why not do it in a place nicknamed the Sunshine State?

Florida also has benefits beyond the tropical weather northerners crave. There is no state income tax, the regulatory environment is pro-business, and the business mix has become much more diverse than the state’s traditional strength, tourism.

Hedge funds, private equity firms and big financial services players such as Goldman Sachs have built a presence there. Florida has become a hotbed of electric and autonomous vehicle development, attracting big automakers such as General Motors, Ford and Audi, as well as tech firms such as the sensor-maker Luminar.

While Florida house prices remain high, they are modest compared with those of New York and California. Even public education, a perennial weak spot, has improved thanks to heavy investment. Florida also offers school choice, a big draw for many families.

But the strain on the state’s infrastructure is palpable. Everything is crowded – roads, schools, supermarkets and health care facilities – and waiting lists will greet any newbie looking to join a golf club or dock a boat.

Underpinning everything is a culture clash, a fear among some Floridians that New Yorkers will bring their Democratic politics with them. That simply will not mix well with the politics of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose positions on everything from mask mandates to LGBTQ issues and the teaching of critical race theory have made him a Republican star and likely 2024 presidential candidate. Bumper stickers warn, “Don’t New York My Florida.” In Palm Beach last winter, dozens of cars with New York plates were papered with signs urging “woke” New Yorkers to get lost.

While this new migration has brought economic prosperity to states such as Florida and Texas, the downside is increasingly apparent. The very same problems that have caused New Yorkers and Californians to leave home are now showing up in these new boom states.

It’s clear that, for the foreseeable future, Florida’s metamorphosis to a new normal will be a stormy one – and not just during hurricane season.

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