Polk population growth trails well behind state, region

Published 5:33 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Polk County is growing much slower in the current decade than it did in the previous one.

Between 1990 and 2000, Polk County was one of the fastest growing counties in the state, adding nearly 4,000 residents in the decade. The 21.4-percent growth rate put it well above the statewide average and made it the 17th fastest growing county in the state.

However, since 2000, the county&squo;s growth rate has steadily declined. Polk is on pace this decade to add fewer than 1,000 residents. Polk was ranked 60th out of 100 counties in the state for growth between 2007 and 2008. According to the census bureau, 16 counties in the state had a negative growth rate for that year.

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Neighboring Henderson County continues to see a relatively high rate of growth, increasing in population by 1.9 percent between 2007 and 2008 and 14.8 percent between 2000 and 2008.

Buncombe, Spartanburg and Greenville counties have also seen double digit population growth since 2000, including substantial increases between 2007 and 2008.

The population in Rutherford County, which has seen numerous job losses and currently has an unemployment rate over 15 percent, has grown by just 0.8 percent since 2000.

Polk County&squo;s relatively slow growth rate can be partly attributed to a widening gap between the number of births and deaths in the county and a slower rate of migration.

Between 2000 and 2007, the number of deaths exceeded births by nearly 700 in Polk County, giving it the largest natural population decrease in the state. The county&squo;s population grew minimally over the period only due to migration into the county.

Polk continues to have one of the highest median ages in the state. Without an increase in migration, Polk County&squo;s population growth may remain minimal or even turn negative.

The county also has taken steps to further slow growth, adopting a 7-acre minimum lot size last year. Since then the county has not received plans for any new, major subdivisions.