Even in the middle of a recession, the population in surrounding counties has continued to grow.
Populations in Hall, Dawson, Forsyth, Habersham, Jackson, Lumpkin and White counties all have continued to grow over the past several years, according to data from the American Community Survey that was recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau conducts the survey annually to examine how areas are changing.
In 2007, Hall County’s estimated population was 178,620; that number increased to nearly 185,000 in 2008.
"We’re not surprised by the growth numbers," said Tim Evans, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development.
"We’re a medium metropolitan area, next to a global metropolitan area. Here, we can offer people the best of both worlds: We can give residents that sense of community that they want, but also provide them easy access to some of the other things offered in larger cities."
Although Hall County’s growth rate has slowed over the last few years, the area has maintained its county population ranking. From 2006 to 2007, its population swelled by around 7,100 new residents, about a 4 percent rise. From 2007 to 2008, the population only increased by around 6,100 newcomers, about 3.3 percent.
Despite its slower growth rate, the county remains the 11th-most populous county in Georgia.
Jackson County shows the same growth patterns. According to the survey, in 2007 the population was around 59,000. In 2008, it grew to around 61,600 residents, about a 4 percent growth race. Of the state’s 159 counties, Jackson County ranks 37th in population.
"If you go back and look at the 2000 census, when our population was just under 42,000, you could be surprised by the growth," Darrell Hampton, Jackson County manager said. "But if you look at our physical location in relation to Hall County, Gwinnett County, Clarke County and the metro Atlanta area, then the growth isn’t surprising,"
Besides its proximity to larger metropolitan areas, which lends itself to a "reasonable commute," Hampton says there are several reasons why new residents continue to be drawn to Jackson County.
"We are a large county and are able to provide choices in quality of life for those people who aren’t comfortable in an urban setting. If people are looking for that rural or suburban lifestyle, Jackson County is the ideal place to go," Hampton said. "We also have quality school systems here, which is another reason why people are drawn to Jackson."
Within the county, Hampton says that the Braselton-Hoschton area is one of the fastest growing.
"That whole area’s population is becoming denser; we’re also seeing a lot of growth around Jefferson," he said. "Although the entire county is growing, the overall growth is happening more so in the western and central parts of the county."
As area counties continue to grow, it is important to come up with a comprehensive plan to address the various issues associated with growth, including housing, community life and land use.
Although Hall County won’t begin updating its comprehensive plan until next year, Hampton says that Jackson is in the middle of updating its plan. Residents are welcome to visit the county’s Web site and give their input about the county’s future.
"As a government, we want to know what is important to residents, which is why we have the public meetings and have posted the survey online," Hampton said. "We want to know what has drawn people to the area and also what features of the county they would like to see preserved."