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Our View: It's official, St. Croix County fastest growing

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

St. Croix County grew by 30.6 percent between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 2008, making it the state's fastest-growing county. In raw numbers, that equates to an increase of 19,332 people within the borders of one of the state's western-most counties.

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We may be in an economic slowdown, or recession, but the Census Bureau published the information last week as the agency released 2008 population estimates for counties, states and metropolitan areas across the United States.

Before we get too excited, however, remember that these are estimates - seems like some "estimates" in recent years have been off the mark - especially under the current economic conditions. As most of us have surmised, there has not been much local building activity in the past year or so, but if we consider numbers since April 1, 2000, the numbers are probably not off by too much.

St. Croix County's July 1, 2008, population is estimated at 82,487 compared to 63,155 in the year 2000. Other areas of Wisconsin that saw substantial increases were Dane County (increased 13.2 percent, or raw increase of 56,179 people); followed by Washington County (10.2 percent, or an increase of 11,968 people); Calumet County (10.1 percent, or an increase of 4,096 people); and Kenosha County 10 percent, or an increase of 14,886 people).

By the actual numeric increase, St. Croix County ranked as the third fastest-growing county with the 19,332 increase. Dane County was first with an estimated new 56,179 residents, while Waukesha ranked second by adding 19,877.

If anyone is impressed with numbers, however, the overall state population of Wisconsin may be a bit of a concern. The Census Bureau estimates Wisconsin added 264,259 residents since April 1, 2000, or an increase of 4.9 percent. Its July 1, 2008, population is estimated at 5,627,967.

During the same period, Minnesota added an estimated 300,914 residents (an increase of 5.76 percent). Its July 1, 2008, population is estimated at 5,220,393. If the current trend continues into the foreseeable future, it might not be too long before Minnesota passes the Badger state in population - something that seemed inconceivable not too many years ago. Of course, one problem with slow growth, or no growth, is that states lose representation as the number of congressmen decreases and goes to faster growing, more populous states.

Wisconsin currently has eight representatives of the 435 in the United States Congress after losing one following the 2000 census; the state was as high as 11 in the 20th century.

At any rate, St. Croix County still continues to be one of the growth areas of Wisconsin. In fact, the 10-county region of western, west central and northwest Wisconsin continues to show growth. The region grew by an estimated 9 percent, or 38,777 people. Obviously St. Croix County led the charge, accounting for about half the increase in the 10-county area. Eau Claire (up 5.5 percent) and Chippewa (up 9.5 percent) counties each had increases of about 5,200 people).

Rusk County (-6.2 percent) was the only area county with a significant decrease.

Whether growth is good or bad is, and always will be, debated. The bottom line is, however, St. Croix County is a very desirable place to live. When the current recession comes to an end, we are likely to continue to see growth for many years to come.

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