The Journal Gazette
Saturday, March 26, 2022 1:00 am

County sees 'remarkable' growth surge

Population outpacing state, nation


If it seems like there are more people in the Fort Wayne area now than there used to be, that's because there are, new U.S. census estimates show.

And more than 2,700 of them showed up just in the last year.

In 2021, Allen County's population increased by 2,716 residents, or 0.7% – more than double the state's rate of 0.3% and five times the 0.12% national rate. The county's population now stands at 388,608, up from 385,892 in 2020.

In 2010, the county had 355,939 people.

The new population number includes natural population change – births minus deaths – plus net domestic and international migration, which is the number of people who moved here from inside and outside the United States, minus those who moved away.

Growth also is occurring in the area's metropolitan statistical area, statistics show. The local MSA – comprising Allen, Wells and Whitley counties – grew by 2,830 residents to 423,038.

That makes the local MSA the fastest-growing in Indiana, the second fastest in the Great Lakes region and the 83rd fastest nationally.

The MSA growth rate of 0.67% trailed only Eau Claire, Wisconsin's 0.71% in the Midwest. It exceeded the rates of two areas known for growth: Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson at 0.62% and Columbus, Ohio, at 0.47%.

Local economic development officials described the net domestic migration number as especially significant because it shows that efforts to attract people and companies from elsewhere are paying off.

Fort Wayne and Allen County added 1,299 of their new residents from domestic migration – the fifth straight year that number has increased.

The area has rebounded after experiencing a string of at least six years of population losses beginning in 2011. The new domestic migration net increase also is the second-largest gain since then, topped only by 2019's 1,514.

John Urbahns, president and CEO of Greater Fort Wayne, described the growth as “remarkable” in a news release. Greater Fort Wayne works to increase investment and growth in the city and Allen County.

“This community is on a winning streak, and we continue to see people and businesses gravitate toward that,” Urbahns said, crediting regional amenities including Parkview Field, Promenade Park and The Landing and the relatively low cost of living as contributors.

“When business leaders are looking to expand and add jobs, they specifically look for growing communities where they'll be able to attract and retain a strong workforce,” added Ellen Cutter, Greater Fort Wayne's vice president of economic development.

“Nationwide, midsize communities are becoming magnets for talent, and Allen County now has a five-year track record as one of the best in the country,” Cutter added.

Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said growth in Allen County and the MSA also is outperforming that of other areas in Indiana and the United States when it comes to births.

Almost 75% of U.S. counties had more deaths than births last year. But Allen County joined Adams, DeKalb, Kosciusko, LaGrange and Noble counties as having more births than deaths.

Huntington, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties recorded more deaths than births between 2020 and 2021.

But experiencing more births than deaths might not continue because of population trends, Blakeman said. The first members of the baby boomer generation turn 76 this year, and many will soon be reaching the end of their lives and contributing to the death numbers.

Continuing to gain population in northeast Indiana is “not a given,” Blakeman said. Communities “have to work for it.”

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