Economic Development and Government

Metro Grand Rapids population passes 1 million

March 19, 2013
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Recent census data shows that Grand Rapids now consists of a population of more than 1 million in the metro area, which could make it more desirable and competitive in attracting businesses to the area.

Metro Grand Rapids now includes 1,005,648, compared to a 2010 population of 774,160.

However, the new population data doesn’t reflect the full picture. The data is derived from the metropolitan statistical area consisting of Kent, Ottawa, Mecosta and Barry counties, while previous census data consisted of the MSA of Kent, Ionia, Barry and Newaygo counties.

According to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget’s website, “The methodology used for designating MSAs prior to 2003 reflected several factors and it tended to produce stable and consistent results. The new methodology used in 2003 and 2013 is much more simplistic. Counties are now generally linked solely on the basis of having commuting rates of 25 percent or more relative to the central county or counties of a metropolitan area. West Michigan happens to have several pairs of counties with commuting rates slightly below or slightly above 25 percent, so the composition of the Grand Rapids MSA is unstable and only tenuously related to actual changes in relationships among counties.”

Counties have shifted in meeting the 25 percent threshold, creating the current census configuration and allowing for the much larger numbers.

The rise in population is not entirely the result of the shifting MSA, however.

“Kent and Ottawa counties had the highest rates of natural increase in the state; i.e., more births than deaths,” said Kenneth Darga, state demographer. “They also gained more migrants than they lost.

“I anticipate continued growth in West Michigan. This region has one of the most vibrant economies in Michigan, and its combination of favorable migration patterns and more births than deaths should make it one of the fastest growing regions of the state.”

Darga said the southeastern side of the state, including Detroit, isn’t growing at the same rate as West Michigan.

“Its primary competition for being the fastest growing region of Michigan is likely to come from the Traverse City and Ann Arbor areas, which have recently had higher net migration rates but lower birth rates,” he said.

The census data also shows that Ottawa and Kent are among the fastest growing counties in the state, ranking first and fourth, respectively. Grand Traverse is second and Keweenaw is third.

The Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA ranks second in Michigan and 52nd in the United States.

“New York is the largest MSA (with nearly 20 million residents) and Carson City, Nev., is the smallest (with 55,000 residents),” Darga said. “Grand Rapids comes after Buffalo, Salt Lake City and Rochester, and it is larger than Tucson, Honolulu and Tulsa.

“The Grand Rapids-Wyoming-Muskegon consolidated statistical area, which includes Allegan, Ionia, Mecosta, and Muskegon counties, as well as the four counties of the Grand Rapids-Wyoming MSA, is the 38th largest CSA in the U.S.”

Detroit has seen a decline of an estimated one-tenth of 1 percent since the 2010 census, while Lansing grew by an estimated 0.4 percent since 2010.

“The Ann Arbor MSA, which consists of Washtenaw County alone, was the fastest-growing MSA in Michigan, with an estimated 1.8 percent growth since the 2010 census. Grand Rapids-Wyoming was close behind at 1.7 percent,” Darga said. “The Traverse City micropolitan area, which consists of Grand Traverse, Leelanau, Benzie, and Kalkaska counties, grew by an estimated 1.3 percent.

“The Coldwater micropolitan area (Branch County) had the highest estimated rate of population decline (-3 percent), followed by the Owosso micropolitan area (Shiawassee County) at -2 percent and the Flint metropolitan area (Genesee County) at -1.3 percent.”

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