FERNANDINA BEACH: Positive News Hits Home in Nassau County, Florida

Where are America’s wealthy moving to? FORBES ranked Nassau County, Florida 3rd destination in USA. Also, NEWSWEEK ranks local high school amongst top in nation.

Oceanfront Homes & Golfers, Amelia Island Plantation, Nassau County, Florida
Oceanfront Homes & Golfers on Greens, Amelia Island Plantation, Nassau County, in northeast Florida

EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing Columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Steve’s Marketplace column.

With so many cities and counties and states making the news for the wrong reasons, it’s refreshingly novel when a place earns headlines for the right reasons.

A recent article in Forbes, the prestigious business publication, showcased places where wealthy residents are moving (based upon their tax returns). Nassau County, Florida was ranked as the third most popular destination in the U.S.A.

There are many reasons that Nassau County, Florida appeals to newcomers. Low crime. Little traffic. No pollution. Proximity to a major city, to outstanding hospitals, and to an accessible airport. Beaches and marshes and rivers. A historic flavor with a Norman Rockwell-look downtown. And wide open spaces on the west side of the county.

Historic Buildings Line Fernandina Beach's Centre Street, Amelia Island, Florida
Historic Buildings Line Fernandina Beach's Centre Street, Amelia Island, Florida

Schools are an added attraction, especially for families. Nassau County, Florida stands out above the crowd in this area also. In a national ranking by Newsweek of the top high schools in the country, Fernandina Beach High School placed No. 612. (Some 27,000 high schools in the nation were scrutinized in the rankings.)

In prior years, Fernandina Beach High has placed within the top 1,000 schools. The ranking this year was significantly higher than in even those previous recognitions. The rankings are essentially based upon the percentage of students within a school completing advanced studies (in the preceding year).

Fernandina Beach High has emphasized advanced studies among its current student body of less than 1,000 students. It has been a priority of Principal Jane Arnold. In some years, about three-fourths of the graduating seniors at the school intend to enroll in college.

Although the presence of a top-flight public school system is an attraction to an area, the wealthy are looking at other amenities also. They want warm weather and low taxes — and reasonably priced real estate. And Florida has all three to offer.

Even though there has been much negative publicity surrounding the decrease in the Sunshine State’s population in recent years, it is still an idyllic place to live. (Much of the loss in population can be tied to the construction industry, which has been hit hard by the recession.)

For years, Florida has been considered a top retirement destination — and will inevitably regain that lofty perch once the economy recovers. The Forbes article does not focus on retirees, but on wealthy families moving in and out of an area. The more moving in (versus those leaving), and the higher the ranking.

Overwhelmingly negative news has been flowing from the Gulf Coast due to the oil spill. Jobs are being lost there and throughout Florida, and in other states, while many cities and counties are beset with budget deficits. This has all been well documented by media reports.

However, amid one of the worst recessions in recent memory, Florida is still attracting wealthy residents (who typically spend more and help boost the economy), according to Forbes. The top-rated place in the U.S. for the wealthy to migrate is Collier County, Florida, where Naples is located; the fifth-ranked destination is Walton County, positioned in the beleaguered Florida Panhandle.

Steve Nicklas

It’s nice when there is a whiff of positive news, amid all the doldrums. Especially when it hits home.

(Steve Nicklas is a financial advisor who lives on Amelia Island. He can be reached at 904-753-0236 or via eMail at [email protected])