Drawn to urban areas, 100,000 more people call Twin Cities home

  • Article by: DAVID PETERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 27, 2014 - 9:12 AM

Twin Cities have added 100,000 residents with urban centers leading the way, census finds.

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Rush-hour traffic on Hwy. 169 looking south toward the Bloomington Ferry Bridge and from Hennepin County to Scott County.

Photo: Richard Sennott, Star Tribune

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The Twin Cities gained more than 100,000 residents between 2010 and 2013, an increase fueled by a continued boom in urban population growth, new U.S. Census Bureau estimates say.

In a remarkable role reversal, the Twin Cities suburbs, long the main driver of growth, have cooled off to the point where they account for just over a third of metro population growth, as opposed to 84 percent last decade. But they, too, are showing signs of a modest rebound as overall growth increases.

“The census is agreeing with what we see happening here, which is strong growth in the urban counties,” said State Demographer Susan Brower. “This is a change that has been developing [for] some years now, and it’s continuing.”

Nearly half of the overall growth in the Twin Cities happened in Hennepin County, the census estimates say. Urban-dominated Ramsey County showed an uptick from 2012 to 2013, with growth rising from 5,100 to 6,200, in a period when Green Line light rail is nearly complete and drawing development interest. In the suburbs, Dakota and Carver counties also perked up.

Suburban Scott County remains the fastest growing in the state in percentage terms, though its raw population is still a sliver of the urban counties’.

Across the state, meanwhile, several major regional centers have seen strong growth this decade, the census bureau says.

Fargo-Moorhead has grown by nearly 15,000 since 2010 to become one of the nation’s fastest-rising metropolitan areas in its rate of growth, 7 percent.

And it’s a change that is being noticed, said Lisa Gulland-Nelson, vice president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp.

“For people who’ve lived here,” she said, “we don’t know where all these people came from all of a sudden. Not long ago I took the kids to a downtown museum and thought I could park right outside — you can always park right outside of anything in Fargo. But we couldn’t! We had to park at my work and walk several blocks.”

Optimism outstate

Even as the census data offers a snapshot of growth this decade, a new set of county-level population forecasts emerging this week from the demographer’s office predicts a strong evening out of growth across the state.

The projections, to 2045, tamp down once-high growth expectations for some Twin Cities area exurban counties, on the rural fringe, while depicting a more optimistic picture for distant rural areas that had been looking at declines.

Ben Winchester, a University of Minnesota Extension rural sociologist, said that coincides with what he’s seeing these days in rural Minnesota.

“The Census of Agriculture is showing some loss of farms,” he said, “but we’ve diversified ourselves. Manufacturing [is] strong in many areas, and broadband is allowing people to telecommute to the Twin Cities area, so you are seeing lots of proprietors out in the countryside: financial analysts, book editors, the self-employed.”

Rochester leads

Among outstate counties, Olmsted, with Rochester at its center, is the leading gainer so far this decade, even before the full impact of the state’s multibillion-dollar injection of revival funds could take effect. It has added nearly 5,000 people.

“Rochester has a much higher concentration of jobs in health care than most at a time when an aging population is increasing the importance of that sector,” Brower said. “International migration is helping fuel the growth.

“Having said that,” she added, whether it’s Fargo or Rochester, “the numbers are still fairly small” compared to the Twin Cities area.

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