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Highway 17 Profits between the Oranges

By Gary Scott

Natural Resources

Opportunity flows like an orange and green river bursting, streams of wealth gushing in the numbers and trends. The stream of money to be made surges north from Orlando along Highway 17, an area filled with pines, stately oaks and many, many groves of oranges.

Numerous messages at this and the site look at profit potential in Small Town USA. When traveling Merri and I try different routes and automatically watch and look for opportunities.

We have done this for so many years that we do not even think about what we are doing. We just wait for instinct to kick in.  The gut begins to rumble and there is that “I would love to be here feeling”. This is what we wait for. We felt this aplenty as we tried a new route on our trek south. We could hardly wait to get off of the Interstates.  

Whether this knee jerk response is right or not, only time will tell. However given the opportunity I will place some bets on investing in land and homes south of Orange Park, Florida (Jacksonville) down Highway 17 to Orange City (Deltona-Orlando) Florida. There are numerous small towns including Green Cove Springs, Palatka, Welaka, Pierson and De Leon Springs.

Some nice geographic features include the Atlantic, about 20 miles east. Easy to get there but during hurricanes, far enough away. The huge but beautiful St. John River winds south along the highway and then forms the huge Lake George and slightly lesser Lake Como which turns in the road and land along it into a peninsula with the end kicked out. Nice water is on both sides.

My logic can come up with several reasons why my gut was kicking as I drove through this land.

First, Highway 17 is in the path of progress, connecting the huge Orlando and Jacksonville megapoli. Second, we have heard from Floridian friends that there is a wave of resettlement.  Coastal people are fed up with fleeing storms, high prices, high insurance and higher property tax. They are staying in Florida but moving inland. This is the first high ground away from the coast, not exempt from hurricane winds off the Atlantic, but too far inland to be clobbered by sea developed storm surges. Be sure to check the flood plains from the river and lakes before you look further.

Third, this is potential baby boomersville. Numerous messages have pointed out that many baby boomers will move when they retire but will stay about 25 miles from where they live now. This means a huge potential market of buyers sits in Duval and Orange County.

A quick comparison shows the logic in selling a home in the expensive urban areas and moving into the friendlier, lower cost, less hectic small towns.   

The fourth reason I like this area is nature. This is wonderful forested land. The towns are loaded-moss laden oaks and the area abounds with flora and fauna. Many boomers appear to be shifting in this direction.

Learn more about Lake George at

Merri and I have been models of this trend for almost a decade buying and living on secluded acreage. A December 23, 2005 USA Today article by John Ritter, "An intriguing new development in the forest" helps confirm this trend. The article says, "We’re seeing a huge, huge transformation taking place. The fundamental nature of why people own forest land has shifted." The article points out "Affluent baby boomers looking for getaways and retirement homes are drawn to secluded outdoor lifestyles."

The article focuses on how land owned by magna forestry companies is becoming so valuable that it is being divided and sold in small acreage parcels. Ritter looked at parcels being sold by companies such as Industrial Paper Co. and 20 acre parcels being sold outside Olympia, Washington near Mt. Rainier. One specific parcel mentioned was 200,000 acres divided by Weyerhaeuser and being sold in 20 acre parcels in the $300,000 per parcel range.

Ritter says: "At least 10 million acres of private forest will be sold next year according to estimates by the American Forest foundation and others. That would be as much as was sold in all of 1990."

That’s quite a trend! Quite an acceleration, not surprising when you look at how many of us boomers will celebrate our 60th birthdays in 2006.

So, if the guy on the pogo stick in my gut is correct and if you are looking for a way to conserve and enhance wealth, you may do well to buy secluded, forested land not too far from large urban areas that will appeal to baby boomers over the next five or six years.   

One place to find this aplenty is between the Oranges on Highway 17.

By the way this is also a wonderful winter trip away from the snow and cold. The sun is shining and you can enjoy the weather as you enhance your wealth.  

Until next message, may all your investing be sunny and bright!


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