- Florida has one of the biggest economies in the United States.
- Two of its most famous industries include tourism and agriculture, which contribute to the state’s $1 trillion GDP.
- Here are 13 surprising facts about Florida’s economy.
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Florida is one of the United States’ economic powerhouses.
It’s the third biggest state in the country by population, and has the fourth biggest economy. In fact, its GDP is larger than all but 16 countries.
Florida’s economy is extremely diverse, with tourism and agriculture among its top industries.
Today, climate change is threatening the state’s economy, as rising seas and increasing natural disasters are costing the state millions. But Florida is investing in new technology that it hopes will keep the state thriving for years to come.
Here are 13 surprising facts about Florida’s economy.
If Florida were a country, it would rank 17th in GDP
- Shutterstock / Sean Pavone
Florida’s gross domestic product reached $1 trillion in 2018. If Florida were an independent nation, it would have the 17th-largest GDP in the world, ranking just behind Indonesia and above Turkey, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Argentina.
Disney World employs more people at a single location than any other company in the US
- Walt Disney World/Facebook
Disney World’s Magic Kingdom calls itself the “Happiest Place on Earth,” and the theme park is also one of the busiest.
The greater Walt Disney World Resort has 70,000 employees. According to Disney, that’s the largest number of people employed by one company in a single location anywhere in the US.
Disney World needs that huge staff to entertain and serve the huge numbers of visitors that pour through its gates each year. In 2017, 20.45 million people explored the Magic Kingdom. That’s almost as many people as live in Florida (20.98 million), the third most populous US state.
There are actually scammers in Florida who try to sell people swampland
- Shutterstock/jaimie tuchman
“If you believe that, I’ve got some swampland in Florida to sell you.”
People use that phrase to suggest the person they’re talking to is gullible, and it’s based on the real experience of unfortunate purchasers in Florida who found themselves strapped with land that was too swampy to build on.
According to Florida’s attorney general, land scams are not just a thing of the past. If you’re buying real estate in Florida, make sure you inspect the property in person first to make sure you’re getting what you expect.
The Everglades generate more than $100 million for the Florida economy
But swampland does have value in Florida – if it’s left alone.
The Everglades, which are actually wetlands and not technically a swamp, are a major tourist destination, but they are fragile. As Florida development boomed in the last century, more than half the original 4 million acres of the Everglades was drained and the water flow was reduced by more than two thirds. Data compiled by the Clean Water Fund show that $11.5 billion spent to restore this majestic wetland will result in a $46.5 billion boost to the Florida economy, including real estate development and the benefits of cleaner water and better habitat.
Home prices and rents keep rising in Miami, even though the city could be underwater in 80 years.
- Jeffrey Greenberg/Getty Images
The next best thing to buying swampland is a home that might be literally underwater.
Miami may be the US city most in danger of being swallowed by rising seas due to climate change. One 2018 report said 12,000 Miami Beach homes are in danger of chronic flooding within the next 30 years.
Hey, want to buy some beachfront property in Miami? Rowboat included.
The city of Miami Beach will spend $500 million on water pumps to stave off rising waters
The optimism in the Miami area real-estate market may be due, at least in part, to efforts like Miami Beach’s $500 million plan to combat rising oceans. The plan includes a pumping system to drain streets prone to sunny-day floods, and elevating city streets. The question is whether it will be enough. The Miami Herald reported that, by 2070, sunny-day flooding could become everyday flooding in this coastal community.
Florida had $68.6 billion in insured catastrophic losses between 1986 and 2015
Miami isn’t the only part of Florida that has to contend with the destructive forces of nature. According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida has the most losses because of catastrophic events of any state in the US. In the 30 years between 1986 and 2015, insured losses alone amounted to $68.6 billion.
Florida’s top agricultural export is meat, not citrus
So you might be surprised to find out that Florida is home to nine out of the top 25 beef producers in the US. While the orange crop is the state’s biggest agricultural output, its No. 1 international agricultural export is actually meat.
Nineteen percent of Floridians are over 65 years old — and there’s one county where more than half the population is over 65
- Michael Steele/Getty Images
Meanwhile, Sumter County, outside Orlando, is the only county in the US where the majority of its residents are over 65, with about 53% of its population having reached retirement age, according to Pew. The next highest county is Charlotte County, also in Florida, at about 38%.
Two thirds of the land in Florida is used for farming
- Shutterstock/Tom Fawls
When you think of Florida, you might think of Disney World, Key West, and a Florida man who brought his alligator on a beer run. But most of Florida is none of these things. Two thirds of Florida is farmland, according to a 2018 report from the University of Florida.
Florida’s top export is civilian aircraft
- Shutterstock/Marcio Jose Bastos Silva
Florida is a major agricultural state, but farm products aren’t even among its 10 most common foreign exports. Florida’s No. 1 foreign export is airplanes and aircraft parts, according to census data.
Florida’s top industry, tourism, added $111.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2016
Tourists flock to Florida’s 663 miles of beaches and warm climate. Tourism, Florida’s biggest industry, contributed $111.7 billion to the state’s economy in 2016. While much of that money went to hotels and recreation, other sectors of the Florida economy get a big boost from out-of-towners. Visitors spent almost $16 billion on retail purchases as well.
The Sunshine State gets only 0.1% of its energy from solar power — but that may be changing
- Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images
Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but until recently, all that sun didn’t translate into solar energy.
Scientific American reported that while Florida has the eighth-highest potential for solar-energy generation in the US, it creates less than Vermont, which gets 2.4% of its energy from solar.
But Florida may be in store for a solar-energy boom, the article noted. Solar employment rose 21% in Florida last year, according to the Orlando Sentinel, with residential solar installation accounting for 63% of those jobs.
- Ben Horton/Getty Images for Madame Tussauds Hollywood