Kokomo — As Indianapolis has grown during the past decade to become the 14th largest city in the United States, cities around Indianapolis have grown as well. Areas like Carmel, Fishers and Westfield have grown by 80 percent or more since 2000.
But while those cities have seen significant growth, Kokomo and the surrounding areas have experienced mostly population decline.
Estimates show that Kokomo’s population fell by 1.6 percent during the period from 2000 to 2009. The city’s population dropped by 717 to an estimated 45,396 by July of last year.
Kokomo isn’t alone.
Although Indiana overall has seen a modest population increase, figures released by the Indiana Business Research Center have shown people are leaving many of the state’s largest urban areas.
According to the study, cities with the greatest population losses include Muncie at 4.4 percent, Anderson at 4.2 percent and Marion at 2.9 percent.
Among Howard and the surrounding counties, the only community to experience population growth was Russiaville. From 2000 to 2009, the town’s population climbed 14.3 percent. Estimates show an increase of 157 people to a population of 1,155.
“I can believe that,” Linda Downey, Russiaville clerk/treasurer, said of the population growth. “We have had several subdivisions built here in the past 10 years.”
Downey expects the population growth to continue as the economy improves and said the town is prepared after recently expanding the water and waste treatment plants.
“This is a great place to live and raise a family,” she said.
Downey moved to Russiaville from Virginia in 1975.
“I grew up in Niles, Mich., and wanted to be closer to home,” she said. “We came here for job opportunities. I’ve seen a lot of changes in Russiaville.”
Matt Kinghorn, an economic analyst with the Indiana Business Research Center, said the economic recession has slowed the migration of people from urban to suburban areas.
“Anderson, Muncie and Marion have tough employment situations, which has driven the population losses,” Kinghorn said Thursday. “There has been some stability in Howard County.”
He said, at the onset of the recession, Howard County was hit hard on a temporary basis. Kinghorn said the emergence of Delphi and Chrysler from bankruptcy have been positive signs for the county.
“As companies gear up production, it should help in the future,” Kinghorn said. “As the economy recovers, the population will grow.”
He called the slight downturn a possible “hiccup” brought about by the recession.
“Indiana despite the economic conditions has gained population,” Kinghorn said. “In Indiana in general the population trend tracks consistently with the economic rebound.”
As Indiana expands manufacturing opportunities in green technology, it will attract people to the state, he said
“If Indiana becomes a leader in those industries, it will result in population growth,” he said.