View Full Version : GA Counties among the top 10 in growth

Jim Thompson
04-18-2003, 05:30 PM
Ga. Counties Among U.S. Fastest Growing

By LOUISE CHU, Associated Press Writer

McDONOUGH, Ga. - Julie Sargent lived in one of the nation's fastest growing counties for years until she left the northern suburbs of Atlanta for Henry County 15 years ago to get more of the "small-town feel."

"The city was growing too fast on the north side, and I wanted to get away from that," Sargent explained.

It worked, for a while. But the growth that Sargent fled has followed her.

Henry County was the third fastest growing county in the country last year. Newton County, just east of Henry, was seventh and Forsyth County, northeast of Atlanta, was fourth. Atlanta's growth has continued to spread out away from the city along its highways, turning once rural counties into burgeoning suburbs.

"It's going to spread out all over the place. These trends tend to follow transportation corridors," said University of Georgia demographer Douglas Bachtel.

Census figures show that nationwide, immigrants were moving to big cities, while others were moving into counties on the fringes of large metropolitan areas.

Sprawling Los Angeles County, the nation's largest, added 118,000 immigrants while losing 83,000 other residents to other U.S. destinations. Overall, the population grew 1.3 percent in the year, to 9.8 million.

Cook County, Ill., home to Chicago, saw a net increase of 50,000 international migrants and a net decrease of 97,000 domestic migrants. The county's population overall remained relatively unchanged at 5.4 million.

"These big counties are increasingly dependent on immigration," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank. "Growth in the suburbs has occurred because the more affordable homes are the ones further out."

Rockwall County, Texas, about 20 miles east of Dallas, was the fastest growing county, ballooning by 8 percent between July 2001 and July 2002. Suburbs around Denver and Washington also had big gains on the list released Thursday by the Census Bureau (news - web sites).

Most of the largest urban counties had little or no growth, while suburban counties in the West and South once again dominated the list of fastest-growing areas.

Sargent, a 51-year-old retired schoolteacher, said she chose McDonough 30 miles south of Atlanta because it's a place where "you know the shop owners, they know you, they know what you like, they say hello and smile."

Henry County grew 7.1 percent in the latest statistics, welcoming 9,280 new residents.

"I used to love driving through town, and you'd see pastures on each side, and it's beautiful," Sargent said. "And now, it's just turning into tight subdivisions lots and lots of houses on little bits of land."

Jason Harper, vice chairman of Henry County's Board of Commissioners, said the majority of people living in the county have been commuters from Atlanta.

"People can live here and get on the interstate and go straight to their office," he said.

He said that's resulted in heavy traffic and deteriorating roads. Voters recently passed a local sales tax increase to raise $140 million to address those problems.

In Newton County, schools are expecting an increase of 1,200 children to the 8,000-student population next year. The county has constructed almost 500 new classrooms in the past decade, school Superintendent Wendell Clamp said.

To compile the Census Bureau's annual estimate of county populations, demographers studied birth and death records while estimating the number of immigration and domestic relocations based on the 2000 census.

Nationally, there were 288.4 million U.S. residents last July, up 1.1 percent from the previous year.