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Archive for Sunday, March 6, 2011

Vital growth

Lawrence and Douglas County still are among the fastest growing areas of Kansas, but we shouldn’t take our good fortune for granted.

March 6, 2011

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When 77 Kansas counties saw their populations decline in the last decade, population increases of about 10 percent in Lawrence and Douglas County don’t look too bad.

Nonetheless the local increases represent the lowest population gains since the Great Depression. That may not be cause for alarm, but it’s something local officials shouldn’t accept too easily.

Figures released last week from the 2010 U.S. Census showed that Douglas County’s population had grown by 10.9 percent to 110,826; Lawrence’s population stood at 87,643, an increase of 9.4 for the decade. Both of those figures were well above the state’s overall population growth of 6.1 percent.

In general, the bigger counties in Kansas got bigger and the smaller, rural counties got smaller in the 2010 count. Twenty-three Kansas counties lost more than 10 percent of their population in the last decade. Douglas County was one of only nine counties with population gains of more than 10 percent. All of those counties are grouped around the state’s largest population centers in Wichita and northeast Kansas.

Johnson County grew by 20 percent and remained the state’s largest county, but another notable growth area was in the three-county area that includes Manhattan and Fort Riley. Geary County was the fastest-growing county in the state at 23 percent; its neighbors, Riley and Pottawatomie counties, recorded growth of 13.6 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively.

Lawrence and Douglas County officials were looking at the bright side of the new Census figures. County Administrator Craig Weinaug said he was “very happy with” the 1 percent annual growth rate. Mayor Mike Amyx said every community sees ups and downs in population cycles and Lawrence was fortunate to still be growing.

City Manager David Corliss noted that accurate population figures are important to a variety of planning and infrastructure decisions facing the city. The city needs to be realistic about its population projections but it also must take the right steps to encourage continued growth.

The new Census figures provide ample evidence of how important some level of growth is to a community’s vitality and economic well being. Many Kansas communities would be more than happy to accept the news Lawrence and Douglas County received from the Census Bureau last week, but local officials shouldn’t take growth, or its accompanying benefits, for granted. In fact, they should aim for an even greater increase by 2020.

Comments

scott3460 3 years, 5 months ago

They are not people, they are consumers.

Make sense now?

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Kookamooka 3 years, 5 months ago

We shouldn't measure our success based on growth. They build things in this town and then let them rot. There are major multi-family housing complexes on the market right now. Even the downtown Marriott/outlet mall is on the national real estate market. When I consider the number of important buildings in this town that are vacant and have been for decades...I start to re-evaluate the definition of growth and whether it's even a GOOD thing.

Look up www.loopnet.com and search Lawrence KS. You'll see what I mean.

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grammaddy 3 years, 5 months ago

Our" little blue island in the middle of a big red sea "is growing !!This must mean Kansans are getting smarter.

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wow365 3 years, 5 months ago

The Horizon 2020 plan is the city's growth plan. An urban growth has been identified and recommendations in place for smart growth as opposed to suburban sprawl. Too bad the school district is closing the school in the designated urban growth zone. City leaders and school board members to join together to keep Lawrence on track with the intended growth plan.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 5 months ago

Negative growth is certainly something to be avoided, as it leaves a smaller population to support infrastructure that has been built to support a larger population, which can result in blight-- see Detroit.

But extreme growth rates really only benefit a relatively small segment of the population, and can often lead to areas of blight just as easily as does a significant loss of population, because the sprawl it brings means that spending on new infrastructure is poorly planned, and funding that would have otherwise been spent on maintenance of existing infrastructure is diverted elsewhere.

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jafs 3 years, 5 months ago

In between negative growth, which isn't good, and too much positive growth would be sustainability.

That could mean that population stays essentially constant, with small fluctuations, and that revenue is sufficient to meet expenses, blight is minimal, etc.

"Grow or die" are not the only options.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

"But extreme growth rates really only benefit a relatively small segment of the population, and can often lead to areas of blight just as easily as does a significant loss of population, because the sprawl it brings means that spending on new infrastructure is poorly planned, and funding that would have otherwise been spent on maintenance of existing infrastructure is diverted elsewhere."

Exactly...

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 5 months ago

The Lawrence economy of the past 25 years has been tied to new housing and "boom town ecoomics". This scenario wrecked the USA economy. Seems like some still are thinking the same. Where is plan B or C?

Market property values are still dropping in spite of county appraised values. About 60% of Johnson County property values dropped for the 3rd consecutive year. 10,000 homes on the market in KCMO metro = buyers market. Where is plan B or C?

The nation still is measuring economic growth based on new housing starts. This might be insanity....there are 9 million homes on the market. AND we don't know how many out there owe more than their homes are worth.

So if a group bought the country club for sale in Lawrence for $6.5 million today it would likely be worth less tomorrow = reality.

The real estate market may not bounce back for years and years. 11-26 million people still need jobs that pay at least $17.50 per hour or more.

WHAT is plan B or C?

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Kookamooka 3 years, 5 months ago

@ one eye--Then they can secede from Union, raise their own militia and become a new country.

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