NEWS-SENTINEL EDITORIAL: Population growth is good for region

The most recent data from the US Census Bureau offers reasons for optimism in Northeast Indiana.

The latest census number for July 1, 2018 show that the Fort Wayne metro area is growing faster than most of the state. Since the last census in 2018, Allen County has added more than 20,000 residents, a growth rate of 5.33 percent, very close to the 5.37 percent growth Marion County experienced. In fact, just 11 counties in the state grew faster than Allen.

In the past year, the Census Bureau estimates Allen County grew by more than 3,000 residents, a 0.84-percent increase that is faster than the state or nation.

The 11-county Northeast Indiana region now has a population of nearly 785,000, up more than 30,000 since 2010 and more than 3,500 since last year. The number is encouraging to the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, which has a goal of 1 million residents in the region by 2030. The additional population is needed to meet future workforce demand.

The numbers are somewhat surprising to Rachel Blakeman, community Research Institute director at Purdue University Fort Wayne. Blakeman said in general, population trends favor the South and West and that most Midwest communities are seeing population declines.

“The positive numbers from 2017 to 2018 for more than half of Northeast Indiana’s counties, resulted in a net positive migration for this corner of the state,” Blakeman said. “This is remarkable news. I’m cautiously optimistic that this is the start of a positive migration trend.”

The population growth doesn’t come without challenges. The Fort Wayne housing market is enormously tight with low inventory and rising prices. Continued population growth could exacerbate the housing issue.

More importantly is understanding the driving influence behind the growth. The Census Bureau provides estimates of how many domestic and international visitors there, but does not provide insight on what’s driving the migration. It isn’t clear how much of the population growth is, for example, employees who have taken on new jobs.

Regardless, the population news is good for the region, especially at a time when so many other Midwest communities are seeing their populations got in a different direction.

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