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Friday, April 19, 2019 1:00 am

Officials hail population increases across region

BRIAN FRANCISCO | The Journal Gazette

The estimated populations of five counties in northeast Indiana – Adams, Allen, DeKalb, Wells and Whitley – grew last year at rates higher than the statewide average, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The population of each of those five counties increased between 0.6% and 0.9%, and Steuben County matched the Indiana figure of 0.5%. Huntington, Kosciusko, LaGrange and Noble counties fell short of the state mark, with Huntington County adding only one resident.

The Census Bureau said Allen County's estimated population was 375,351 as of July 1, 2018, an increase of 3,141 residents, or 0.8%, from a year earlier. Allen remains Indiana's third-most populous county, behind Marion and Lake counties.

Every county in northeast Indiana reported more births than deaths in the year ending last July 1, and most counties saw a net positive migration of residents.

In Allen County, 1,244 more people moved in than moved out – 691 from the United States and 553 from outside the country.

“When we look at people who are voting with their feet, more people voted to come to northeast Indiana than voted to leave, and that's a substantial statistical difference from past years,” said Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

“Now one year does not make a trend, but it is something different than has happened in past years and hopefully will be the beginning of good things,” Blakeman said in a telephone interview.

“So we're holding our own,” she said.

John Sampson, president and chief executive officer of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, said in a statement: “We have stemmed the tide on net domestic out-migration. Now is not the time to rest. We must do more together, faster, and build on this momentum.”

Allen County officials celebrated the Census Bureau's report in statements issued Thursday by the economic development organization Greater Fort Wayne Inc.

“The secret's out: this is a community on the rise,” said John Urbahns, chief executive officer of Greater Fort Wayne.

“Our proactive efforts to make Fort Wayne and Allen County points of destination for businesses, families, and individuals are beginning to show in a positive way,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said.

“These numbers reflect that Fort Wayne, Allen County, and all of northeast Indiana have indeed become a place of attraction,” Allen County Commissioners Richard Beck, Therese Brown and Nelson Peters said in a joint statement.

The highest population growth rates for Indiana were in four suburban counties surrounding Indianapolis: Hamilton, 2.2%; Hendricks, 2%; Hancock, 1.9%; and Boone, 1.8%.

The Census Bureau said the nation's highest growth rates were in Williams County, North Dakota, 5.9%; Cormal County, Texas, 5.4%; and Kaufman County, Texas, 4.7%.

Four of the nation's nine fastest-growing counties were in Texas, and three were in Florida.

Population estimates for 2018 in northeast Indiana included Adams, 35,636, up 0.6%; DeKalb, 43,226, up 0.9%; Huntington, 36,240, 0.0%; Kosciusko, 79,344, up 0.4%; LaGrange, 39,330, up 0.3%; Noble, 47,532, up 0.3%; Steuben, 34,586, up 0.5%; Wells, 28,206, up 0.7%; and Whitley, 34,074, up 0.9%.

Indiana's estimated population as of July 1, 2018, was just shy of 6.7 million. The state's population has grown by an estimated 207,817 residents, or 3.2%, since the 2010 census, and Allen County's population has increased by an estimated 20,016 residents, or 5.6%, in the same period. 

Population estimates for 2018 in northwest Ohio counties included Defiance, 38,165, down 0.2%; Paulding, 18,760, down 0.4%; Van Wert, 28,281, 0%; and Williams, 36,804, up 0.2%.

bfrancisco@jg.net