According to the latest Missouri population data, Boone County continues to be a popular place to live — but not nearly as popular as the counties surrounding Missouri’s larger cities.
The data released by the Missouri Office of Administration on Thursday reflect that the county recently has been growing at a slightly lower rate than it did from 1990 to 2000.
The yearly growth rate for the last three years was about 1.4 percent, compared with 2.2 percent in the 1990s.
Overall, the county’s total population increased from 134,414 to 141,122 — a 4.2 percent change — between April 1, 2000, and July 1, 20003.
Although there’s been a slight dip, the figures show that the pattern of growth seen over the past 15 years is continuing, said Daryl Hobbs, director of the Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis.
“It’s a significant and stable pattern of population growth,” Hobbs said.
“It’s not going to be boom and bust. Boone County is out on its own; it’s not somebody’s suburb. That’s a very different kind of pattern.”
Counties near St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield and Branson experienced increases ranging from about 6.1 percent to 13.5 percent.
In contrast, many counties throughout the north and southeastern areas of the state lost population.
The data for the past three years show Boone County has the 18th highest growth rate in the state, but it’s sixth highest in terms of total number of new residents.
The county added 5,675 new residents over the past three years, 2,773 of which moved to Boone County from other areas.
Hobbs said he believes people are attracted to Boone County and Columbia mainly for its diverse economy and employment opportunities, particularly in health care and higher education.
“The economy here is an economy that is very, very diversified,” Hobbs said. “You don’t see many ups and downs in the economy of Boone County.”
The county’s mix of employers, which include MU and industries such as health care, manufacturing and insurance, helps buffer the county from major job losses, said Bernie Andrews, director of the Boone County Regional Economic Development.
“Hopefully, not all of those sectors are going to suffer recession at some point in time,” he said. “It puts us in a little better position locally in terms of stability because of those factors and the diversity.”
State demographer Ryan Burson said the Missouri counties that lost population over the last three years were suffering the effects of the recent recession, which caused heavy job losses in manufacturing and other sectors.
The migration of people from rural to metropolitan areas contributed to the declines in those counties’ populations, he said.
Eleven counties experienced losses in population from 1990 to 2000, and more than 40 lost population from 2000 to 2003, according to the data.
These numbers were compiled using 2000 Census numbers, birth and death records from the state Department of Health, and migration estimates based on data collected by the IRS, the Census Bureau and the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to Burson.
Don Laird, president of the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, said Columbia’s steady but moderate rate of overall growth is good for the city.
“You want a good measured growth,” Laird said. “If you get too high, then you get a strain on your services.”
He said Columbia has had some trouble keeping up with demands for new infrastructure, which has led to increased traffic congestion. But, he said, overall the city has done a good job adjusting.
The city has been adding 340 more new residences than it averaged each year in the 1990s, said Roy Dudark, city planning director. In particular, areas along Scott Boulevard and Clark Lane have experienced more growth than they can handle, he said.
“Growth is not uniform,” Dudark said. “When it occurs in locations where the infrastructure has not been expanded at the same time the development occurs, then there’s a lag, and it creates overcrowding and congestion on streets that were not designed for that level of traffic.”