NEW YORK (AP) – Dec. 20, 2016 – Some small business owners looking for customers are following the nation's changing demographics – literally. They're moving long distances to places like Florida, Arizona and California, expecting retiring baby boomers to migrate to warmer climates.
Jeff Tremblay relocated to Florida to open a senior care business after living for 25 years in northern New Jersey. His SYNERGY Homecare franchise helps seniors with tasks like housekeeping, cooking, shopping and daily personal care.
"I thought, if I'm going to do this business, it really makes sense to go where everyone else is retiring," Tremblay says. He'd owned self-storage and construction businesses before, but had relatives in the senior care business and decided it was a good next step.
Tremblay looked at demographic figures before deciding where to settle, and found that the Sarasota area is expected to have strong growth in the coming years. He opened his business April 1.
Other small business owners see the possibilities. In a survey of Florida owners by TD Bank, nearly 30 percent in the central part of the state and a quarter of those in the southern part cited the growing retiree population as a business opportunity.
Businesses like home health care providers, restaurants, cleaning services and lawn maintenance companies are those most likely to be needed by retirees, says Jay Desmarteau, a business banking executive at TD Bank. Retirees want to relax rather than do chores, and as they get older, many need assistance when they begin having medical issues.
In Florida, Tremblay discovered a community of company owners who serve seniors and help one another out. While his employees offer part-time and full-time care to seniors, clients may need other services. So Tremblay relies on transportation companies to deliver food to his clients and chauffeur them to doctor appointments. And he's likely to get referrals from other owners.
"I had no idea so much was going on in this business," he says.
The senior population across the country is expected to soar in the coming decade and beyond as baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 retire. Warm-weather states are forecast to have tremendous growth:
- Florida officials estimate that by 2030, the number of people 65 and over will have increased about 80 percent from 2010 census figures, reaching about 6 million.
- Arizona estimates that its population 65 and over will grow 60 percent to more than 1.7 million people by 2030 from current levels.
- California projects its senior population in 2030 will more than double from 2010, rising to more than 8.6 million.
Even if an entrepreneur is familiar with an area, they do research before they uproot themselves. Scotty Bailey had spent 30 years in consumer lending in Mississippi, but vacationed every year in the Florida Panhandle.
"I've seen it develop and grow and could see where it was headed," Bailey says.
When he grew tired of his work and thought about starting a business, he looked at population and housing trends and found that retirees were moving into the Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, area. Bailey decided that buying a Tikiz Shaved Ice & Ice Cream truck would be a good business – not only would the growing number of residents want ice cream, retirees would also want to treat their grandchildren. In the three months since he began operating the truck, he estimates that 40 percent of the purchases have been made by retirees.
Rob Dunn and his wife moved to Yuma, Arizona, from South Carolina in 2013 – also to open a franchise of SYNERGY, which describes the industry as the fastest-growing in the nation. The Dunns chose Arizona after an exploratory trip in December 2012 because they saw plenty of older people, but fewer home care businesses to compete with than in retirement meccas in Florida.
They also noticed car after car with license plates from places like Alberta and Saskatchewan – Canadian provinces known for long, hard winters. Along with the rising number of U.S. citizens moving to the state, thousands of so-called snowbirds go to Arizona for part of the year to escape the harsh weather.
"You never see many young persons in the area. We knew right away it was a good place for us," says Dunn, who spent 22 years selling cars.
A lifestyle change was the main reason why Bob and Stacey Clarke wanted to move from the rural city of La Grande, Oregon. But Bob Clarke, a financial adviser, was also looking for an area with a large and wealthy senior population, reasoning that he would be able to build a successful practice. Stacey Clarke, a podiatrist as well as a wealth manager, also expected to do well.
The couple settled on the Palm Springs, California, area. Bob Clarke estimates that 95 percent of his clients are retirees and that his income has increased 40 percent since the couple moved two years ago.
"It was overwhelmingly a good choice," Clarke says.