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Halls population shows growth
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Hall County population estimates

2013: 187,745

2012: 185,055

2011: 182,888

2010: 179,684

4.48 percent change over three years

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Hall County’s population grew about 4.5 percent from 2010 to July 2013, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The county’s population jumped 8,061 over the last three years to 187,745. And the average growth rate of 1.5 percent per year is reflective of the post-recession economic climate that has seen demand for services and new development slow as the area, the state and the nation continue their long road to recovery.

Between 2000 and 2010, the county’s population grew about 29 percent, or about 2.9 percent annually.

Since that time, new commercial development has slowed, the housing market remains burdened with distressed properties and tougher loan regulations, and the local job market is still tenuous, with unemployment rising in Gainesville and across Northeast Georgia in January. Growth that appeared inevitable in 2008 hasn’t taken shape in recent years.

“It doesn’t surprise me that the population numbers have been a little slower than we’ve anticipated,” said Hall County Commissioner Craig Lutz, whose district includes South Hall, the fastest-growing area in the county.

Of course, the lack of growth presents a series of challenges for city and county governments that have invested money and other resources in anticipation of a population boom.

For example, Hall County has committed itself to tens of millions of dollars in sewer and water infrastructure development in South Hall, hoping to be ahead of the population curve. But without enough users on the system, there is less money to pay down debt, as well as to spend on operations and maintenance.

While the numbers don’t add up as many officials would have hoped, their certainty the growth is coming appears as strong as ever.

“A lot of the population growth is really a transition from other areas,” such as Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, or from out of state, Lutz said.

And that trend is likely to continue as the metro Atlanta area grows and residents push farther north. According to the Census Bureau, the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell statistical area is the ninth-largest metro region in the nation, with a population of 5,522,942. The area saw an influx of 68,513 new residents between July 2012 and July 2013.

“That creates infrastructure challenges across the board (in Hall),” said Tim Evans, vice president of economic development at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

Whether it’s addressing traffic-related issues, school and classroom sizes, or even utility needs, Evans said he believes Hall County must be prepared to meet the coming demand.

But when and if new growth comes, government officials will be tested on whether they can balance the need for development with the desires of existing residents.

“Generally, we’re experiencing some positive growth,” Evans said. “The balance is always trying to ensure that we have the services and quality of life ... and that we don’t outgrow those aspects of what Hall County is.”

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