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I was born in central Michigan, where it’s probably below freezing as you’re reading this. I’ve lived in Bedminster, New Jersey (where it’s in the high 30s with any luck), and Bethlehem, Connecticut (about the same, probably), and before relocating here I was in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (maybe a comparatively balmy 50). Believe me when I say that this time of year especially, I get why people want to move to Southwest Florida.

And they do. Compared to 10 years ago, more than 60,000 additional people call Collier County home today, according to Census estimates. The area obviously feels more crowded here at the height of Season, but it’s more than just snowbirds; we have an ever-growing number of new neighbors.

Which is why, as we perform our annual look back at the top transactions in real estate, the story of 2022 is growth, growth and more growth. As David Dorsey details on page 34, the pace of multimillion-dollar deals slowed slightly from its 2021 blitz, but numbers continue to rise as records were broken and broken again on purchase prices, especially for apartments. The region’s tremendous demand for housing means numerous developers are betting big on the apartment sector, from existing properties to land that can house future complexes. One 64-acre patch east of Intersate 75 and north of State Road 82 just sold for $30 million, which is more than 12 times what the former owners paid for it 19 years ago—a staggering number. That particular piece of land? It’s going to be developed into apartments.

The story is the same on just about every axis: industrial, luxury retail, residential properties … even in the wake of Hurricane Ian, the Gulfshore market is thriving. As one developer put it, “The growth story of the Southwest Florida market, it’s one of the top 10 growth areas in the nation.”

There’s also cause for cautious optimism on the homeowner front, as the Florida Legislature has passed a package of reforms aimed at strengthening and stabilizing the perilously unsteady property insurance marketplace—John Guerra breaks down the details on page 82.

Unfortunately for many area businesses, having more residents doesn’t necessarily mean access to more potential employees with the right set of skills. Finding qualified staff is hard, and retention is critical. Justin Paprocki spoke with local employers and experts; see page 48 for their advice on adapting to the changes wrought by the last few years and staying competitive in 2023.

As the year gets underway in earnest, I hope yours is off to a great start. The good news is that we have a particular advantage: We’re already here in Southwest Florida, and the sky’s the limit.

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