As we say goodbye to 2016 and welcome in 2017, this may be a good time to reflect on Florida's spectacular transformation in recent decades.

The Florida we know today sits at the epicenter of the nation and it has become a state of mind. Northerners and Midwesterners, especially this time of year, conjure up images of sitting on the beach, playing golf or just taking a stroll outside. Hundreds of thousands relocate briefly each winter, convinced that a visit to the Sunshine State is the only way to survive another arctic blast back home.

Florida has the largest number of retirees of any state with 19.4 percent. Retirees have embraced the image of Florida as an environment where the aging process is not so daunting. It may not be the fountain of youth but it is close.

Along with California, Florida has also attracted one of the most diverse populations in the United States. The state's Hispanic population now constitutes 24.5 percent of the total and its African American population has increased to 16.4 percent.

The state's booming millennial population has created its own state of mind for Florida in which good paying jobs coincide with a beautiful environment and stunning beaches. The long days at work can be offset by relaxing weekends basking in the surf.

It is this mindset and obsession about Florida that has driven the population boom for the past seven decades. An average of nearly 3 million people per decade have moved into the state since 1945, driving the population from 1.9 million to 20.3 million.

The rapidity of this change together with the state's diversity has resulted in a population that is quite disparate - only 30.3 percent of Floridians, for example, were born here, while 50 percent were born in another state, and 19.7 percent in another country.

The mobility of people, both in and out of Florida, has created a state that constantly seems in search of an identity.

It is also a place that is literally unrecognizable when compared to its image prior to World War II. When the nation entered the war in 1941, Florida had one of the smallest populations in the nation and was also one of the poorest states. Its political leaders struggled unsuccessfully to free the state from the Depression. But despite efforts to recruit northern business and tourists, Florida remained largely a rural, agricultural and frontier-like place and its people remained impoverished. Read more.