Despite several years of slow but steady growth in Oakwood, population estimates for 2009 reveal a steeper rise than the city has seen in years past.
The U.S. Census Bureau released 2009 population estimates last week, and Oakwood’s numbers jumped from 4,541 in 2008 to 5,353 in 2009 — a nearly 18 percent increase.
“It’s just been a steady growth for several years now,” said Martha Collins, a member of the Oakwood city council. In years past, growth has been at about 3 percent.
The 2009 spike might reflect growth in the state as a whole, said Douglas Bachtel, a demographer at the University of Georgia.
Bachtel said Georgia has consistently been one of the fastest growing states in the nation, with Atlanta as one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in America.
He said a population increase in a city like Oakwood could be a result of “Gwinnett spillover” — people overflowing from the Atlanta area into smaller nearby communities.
“People will live in and around Hall County because of the quality of life and the schools,” Bachtel said. “Some people make some incredible long-distance commutes.”
Sam Evans, another city council member, said that could be the case in Oakwood.
“I think people would like to live in areas like Flowery Branch and Oakwood where they can spread out,” Evans said. “They can commute back to the Atlanta area and still come back here without a lot of hassle.”
Bachtel said growth also comes if new housing developments pop up in the area — after all, if a city wants to attract more residents, it has to provide plenty of places to live.
“If there’s no houses and no places to live, they’re surely not going to camp out in tents,” he said. “Before that growth started, somebody had to come up with the houses.”
Collins offered a similar explanation.
“I know there’s a lot of apartments and things that are being built,” she said. “So people are moving in. (The city) is just handy to so many things. Oakwood is not that far out of Atlanta, and it’s close to Lake Lanier.”
A new, 300-unit apartment complex located off Winder Highway, The Walden at Oakwood, recently came to the city, and Evans said such a development would be an attractive draw for some people.
“You’re always going to have that demographic that would love to live in those types of places where they don’t have to worry about cutting grass and painting and those kinds of things,” Evans said.
He also said people move to Oakwood because it’s simply a “great place to live.” He cited a steady government structure and a solid school system as reasons people might come to the city.
The 2009 population estimates for the county and other area cities also was released.
Hall County grew by 1.6 percent to a population of 187,743.
Gainesville had an increase of less than 1 percent and Flowery Branch increased by almost 4 percent. Lula grew by 2.5 percent and Clermont and Gillsville by less than 1 percent.
The estimates released are based on updated 2000 Census data, which adds information from recent administrative records on births, deaths and migration.