Profile: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

What's Fort Lauderdale all about? Here, the basic 411.

Population: 200,000 (city)

USDA Hardiness Zone: 10

Major Airports: Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Companies With a Major Presence: Broward Health, Citrix Systems, Nova Southeastern University, AutoNation, Stiles Corporation, Port Everglades, The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, BankAtlantic, Muvico Theaters

Fort Lauderdale has come a long way from the sleepy small town that woke up for a few weeks during spring break. Today the "wild and crazy" breakers are gone (although we still have the wonderful Connie Francis from the movie Where the Boys Are). The tide turned in the late 1980s, and today, sidewalk cafes, high-rise condos and multistar hotels line the beaches, welcoming visitors from around the world while giving locals amenities tourists save up all year to enjoy.

Often referred to as "Greater Fort Lauderdale," the city is part of a sprawling urban area shared by a dozen municipalities and several million people. Some locals claim Fort Lauderdale is the biggest "small town" in America.

It is the kind of place where you attend a chamber of commerce business card exchange while watching the surf roll up on the white sand beach. And the common response when you ask a local how things are going is, "just another day in paradise." Residents live within minutes of the beach, clubs, restaurants, historic landmarks, boating, fishing, theater, the arts and entertainment. If you live here for any length of time there is the hazard that you can begin to take the lifestyle for granted, suddenly realizing that although you could walk to the ocean, you haven't been for months.

There might have been a time when you were paid in "sand and sunshine" when you migrated here to work, but today, Fort Lauderdale is a major market for banking, transportation, health care, education, communication and the travel industry.

Older neighborhoods have been undergoing "gentrification" as the more urban areas were rediscovered when the building boom ran into the protected Everglades in western Broward County and developers had to turn back to formerly neglected neighborhoods.

The goal among some government leaders and planners is to make Fort Lauderdale a pedestrian-friendly, 24-hour community that blends the old and the new and the nightlife with the quiet life. As a result many neighborhoods are an ethnic mix of young families, singles, older couples, professionals and retirees.

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