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Population growth keeps Bulloch moving forward
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            If it seems to you like more and more people are living here, then your intuition has served you well according to the latest numbers from the federal government.

            As it does each year during the ten year period between official census takings, the United States Census Bureau recently released new resident population estimates. According to the Census Bureau, as of July 2007, Bulloch County’s population is estimated at 66,176. 

            This represents a 2.1 percent increase, or 1,414 new residents over the 2006 estimate, and an 18.2 percent increase, or 10,193 new residents since the 2000 Census.  The average annual rate of residential population growth has been 1,456 new residents per year, and a 2.6 percent annual growth rate.

            As in 2000, Bulloch County remains the 37th most populous county in the state of Georgia, and has surpassed Liberty County to become the third most populous county in the Coastal Georgia Region that also includes the following counties: Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Jenkins, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, and Screven Counties.

            You may wonder which counties in our region are growing fastest. In the last seven years, the Census Bureau estimates that Effingham has seen a 35 percent increase in its population, while Bryan has experienced 28 percent growth. Bulloch is third with its 18 percent growth rate.

            Andy Welch, leader of the Bulloch County planning department staff, said as neighboring counties like Effingham and Bryan County continue their more rapid rates of growth and begin to saturate, Bulloch County will become a more attractive alternative. 

            “Our quality of life led by a lower tax burden, a growing business sector and the University will influence more people to choose to live and work in Bulloch County,” Welch said.  “Over time, the question will be if Statesboro-Bulloch County will become among the smaller but independent MSA’s like Hinesville-Liberty County and Brunswick-Glynn County, or will we be an extension of the larger Savannah MSA? Only time will tell.”

            Bulloch County’s growth rate is twice as fast as the region as a whole (2.6 percent compared to 1.3 percent annually) outpacing the State of Georgia’s overall growth rate (2.3 percent annually), while representing over 17 percent of the Coastal Region’s population.

      “Bulloch County’s growth by the end of the decade will likely be at 70,000 residents or more”, said Bulloch County manager Tom Couch.  “This will bring the prospect of reaching the status as a metropolitan statistical area MSA within this current generation.  As the county progressively approaches this status, it is a reminder that our community must continue as we have to manage our community resources wisely for this future growth.”

      To some extent, this information confirmed thoughts I have been having regarding our community’s future direction. If growth is indeed inevitable, and rest assuredly it seems to be. Then, who should be “driving that growth train” - the people that are going to move here, or those of us who already live here.

      Simply put, if we want the growth that is coming our way to be comprised of good, solid, productive citizens, then we need to continue to make our community as attractive as possible to those people.  In my opinion, we can “drive that train” if we so choose by continuing to improve the quality of life here with nice schools, shopping, good job opportunities, recreation, and quality health care, but that’s not all.

      I think we need to formulate a comprehensive plan to deal with the increasing number of blighted areas in our city, particularly on our main corridors. Because, whether we like or not, appearances matter, and a vibrant, healthy, inviting city is a critical factor. 

      Former city manager George Wood told me that demand in the market place for those properties would eventually drive their development, and therefore, government intervention should be minimal if nonexistent. In other words, the problem would take care of itself over time via market mechanisms.

      I don’t necessarily agree with that. I would like to see our city and county be more proactive in this area working with our local development authorities and business community to create a plan for dealing with this problem.  To ignore the blight within our city’s core by assuming that it will fix itself, could ultimately work against us as desirable citizens choose to move elsewhere – which, in turn, could “open” us up for undesirable growth instead. That, I argue, is a nightmare scenario.

      Just a quick side note. I would like to thank the Bulloch County planning staff for providing the statistics that I have quoted.

 

            Until next week, I bid you au revoir.

 

            Got a scoop for Jan? Call her at (912) 489-9463 or e-mail her at jmoore@statesboroherald.net