Numbers tell, hide story

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 16, 2011 - 9:36 PM

Some cities that grew substantially in population since 2000 did so through annexation.

Here's what the numbers say: A cluster of three outer-ring cities along Hwy. 61 -- Forest Lake, Hugo and Wyoming -- are among the five fastest-growing cities in the past 10 years, according to data released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Here's what they don't say: A lot of people in those cities were there already.

In terms of percentage, Forest Lake had the highest percentage of growth, 170.3 percent (from 6,798 residents in 2000 to 18,375 in 2010), followed in order by: Wyoming at 155.6 percent (3,048 to 7,791); Rogers at 139.6 percent (3,588 to 8,597); Otsego at 112.4 percent (6,389 to 13,571); and Hugo at 109.5 percent (6,363 to 13,332).

At least in the case of Forest Lake and Wyoming, a substantial portion of that population growth came through annexation of former neighboring townships since the last census.

Still, while the data might be skewed, the reality in Forest Lake is undeniable, according to Mayor Chris Johnson: Things are booming, despite the economy.

"It's a unique town -- we have a classic downtown, but we also have more traditional suburbs and we have nice rural areas, as well," he said. "We have diverse places to live."

Forest Lake is also just north of the Interstate 35E/35W split, making it ideal for commuters. The Rush Line, a recently added bus line, makes working in the Twin Cities and living in Forest Lake even easier, he said, and distant plans call for the addition of commuter rail.

Unlike some suburbs that are built out, Johnson said, there is still room for housing and other development in Forest Lake, especially south and northeast.

In larger cities, parsing the numbers is more clear-cut: In terms of percentage, Woodbury was the growth leader at 33.4 percent, from 46,463 people in 2000 to 61,961 in 2010. And its proportion of minorities grew from 2.1 to 18.6 percent. Woodbury also jumped from 16th- to 10th-largest city in the state.

Following Woodbury in percentage of growth were: Lakeville at 29.7 percent (from 43,128 people to 55,954); Blaine at 27.2 percent (44,942 to 57,186); Rochester at 24.4 percent (85,056 to 106,769), and Maple Grove at 22.2 percent (50,365 to 61,567).

In his 34 years with the city, Dwight Picha, Woodbury's community development director, has seen a lot of changes. But the things that make it an attractive suburb remain constant: a diversity of housing that draws a diverse population and workforce, good schools, a strong park and recreation program and an optimum location near the Twin Cities at the junction of Interstates 94 and 494.

The city consistently pops up on "best places to live" lists in magazines such as Money and Forbes. "We've really come on the national radar screen," he said.

Jim Anderson • 651-735-0999

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