Fort Wayne is the 77th largest U.S. city, climbing one spot from the previous year, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2018 Population Estimates released Thursday.
In the one-year span ended July 1, 2018, Fort Wayne added 2,178 residents for a total of 267,633 and 0.8% growth, according to the data. The city-specific statistics factor in births, deaths and migration but don't break down how many people fall into each category.
In the same one-year period, Churubusco's population increased by 2.1%, Auburn's by 1.7% and Warsaw's by 1.3%.
Although the federal report uses statistical modeling to produce estimates, it doesn't include an explanation of why people move from one place to another.
But some local officials have theories.
Mike Galbraith, director of The Road to One Million, spearheads northeast Indiana's efforts to distribute a $42 million grant received in 2016 from the state's Regional Cities Initiative.
He believes the 24 grants approved by the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority have contributed to making the region a more desirable place to live.
“We've worked really diligently to make sure we have not only great job opportunities but also an improving quality of life,” Galbraith said, referring to numerous officials engaged in economic development.
“What's really exciting is we're seeing (population growth) not only Fort Wayne but in the region as well,” he added.
Growth percentages are even more impressive when the decade is taken into account. In the eight years from July 1, 2010, to July 1, 2018, Fort Wayne's population has grown by 13,894 residents or 5.5%.
Rachel Blakeman, director of Purdue University Fort Wayne's Community Research Institute, noted that the data counts residents living within city boundaries only, not the entire metropolitan area.
Officials typically look at metro areas when studying labor markets, for example. Fort Wayne's metro area doesn't rank in the top 100, which means it wouldn't be included in some national studies, she said.
The last time official metro area populations were tabulated, Fort Wayne placed about 125th. Since then, federal officials have removed Wells County from the local metro area. Blakeman expects Fort Wayne's placement will fall as a result.
Historically, annexation has helped Fort Wayne increase its population, skipping up the list of largest U.S. cities in previous years.
“That was a bit of an artificial increase because they just moved the boundaries,” she said.
But no additional land has been added to the city limits since 2007, making the growth reflected in the latest report all due to births and people moving into the city.
“Fort Wayne is proving to be an attractive place – either to move or to raise a family,” Blakeman said.
The Census Bureau will release 2018 population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin for the nation, states and counties on June 20, 2019.
Blakeman stressed the importance of northeast Indiana residents accurately completing census forms when they are distributed next year. The region depends on federal funding based on that count, she said.
Allen County's growth was similar to Fort Wayne's, with a one-year rate of 0.84%. Since July 1, 2010, the county's population has increased by 5.63%.
Galbraith, for one, isn't planning to lean back and bask in the latest census findings released Thursday.
“This is one of the better population growth reports we've seen in a long time,” he said. “But we still have work to do.”
At a glance
Miscellaneous facts from the U.S. Census Bureau include:
• Phoenix added the most residents in a one-year period – an increase of 25,288 people.
• Columbus, Ohio, was the only Midwest city on the top 15 list of population growth with an increase of 10,770.
• Although only 4% of U.S. cities have populations of 50,000 or more, they account for almost 39% of the total population.
• Of the 19,495 incorporated places in the United States, about 76% had fewer than 5,000 people.