Gainesville is among the fastest growing areas in the nation and many local residents are not surprised.
“It’s about time people are recognizing what we’ve already recognized for some time,” said Frank Norton Jr., president of the Gainesville real estate firm The Norton Agency.
Gainesville and two other cities are tied for third among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the U.S. between 2007-08, according to Census Bureau estimates released Wednesday.
Gainesville, Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash., and Palm Coast, Fla., all showed a 3.5 percent increase in population from July 2007 to July 2008.
Norton said there are many factors that could have lead to Gainesville’s growth. The area’s proximity to Atlanta, affordable housing, quality school systems and natural beauty have been attracting people to the area, he said.
The population of the Gainesville metro area, which includes all of Hall County, was 184,814 on July 1, according to census estimates, an increase of 6,194 people from the previous year.
But Norton believes there likely are closer to 200,000 people living in Hall today.
“We’re still playing catch-up with some under counting that was in the Hispanic market,” Norton said.
However, Gainesville’s Latino population is not expanding as it once was, according to many.
“The first half of the decade had huge growth segments in the Hispanic market. We think that’s actually shrunk some so we’re no longer really a major attractor for Hispanics,” Norton said.
Hall County is now attracting many senior citizens through housing developments targeted at older adults.
“Hall County certainly is attractive to seniors,” Hall County Planning Director Randy Knighton said.
Knighton said The Village at Deaton Creek, a large active adult community in South Hall, has been filling up quickly over the last two years.
“It is one of the best-selling residential developments in the Atlanta metro area,” Knighton said. “That development obviously has grown tremendously in the past few years and still is not built out yet.”
Aside from senior citizens, Norton said Hall County is also an attractive location for young families.
“They’re very much being attracted to the South Hall part of the county because of the great school systems,” Norton said.
Geography also is a factor. Jackson County, Hall County’s neighbor to the east, also saw an increase in growth between 2007 and 2008.
The population grew from 59,097 to 61,620 in that span, which Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President Shane Short attributes in part to its proximity to Interstate 85 and growth in metro Atlanta.
“I think the increase is just a natural progression as Atlanta continues to expand,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of growth out of Gwinnett County into Jackson County, so I think that’s what we can attribute some of the growth to.”
Norton believes some of booming Gwinnett County’s residents have begun to spill over into Hall.
“We’re next to a county that’s 750,000 people, which is Gwinnett,” Norton said.
The Gainesville metro area’s population in 2000, when the last census was conducted, was 139,315, meaning Hall County’s population has increased 32.7 percent in eight years.
The top-ranked metropolitan statistic area in percentage of population gain was Raleigh-Cary, N.C., with a 4.3 percent increase. Austin-Round Rock, Texas, was the second fastest-growing metro area in the U.S. with a 3.8 percent increase.
For more, log on to the Census Bureau’s Web site, www.census.gov.