News-Leader: Springfield metro area is fastest growing in Missouri

The Springfield News-Leader reported on Saturday, March 27 that the Springfield, Missouri MSA remains the one part of the state that continues to expand in terms of population. It is an underlying economic strength that is often overlooked here, but it bodes well for quicker and more complete economic recovery in the area, particularly in the area of residential and commercial construction. Among those interviewed for the article was Matt Morrow, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Greater Springfield.

Springfield metro area is fastest growing in Missouri
March 27, 2010

By: Cory de Vera

The Springfield area is the fastest growing metro in the state, according to data released by the U.S. Census this week.

The five-county metropolitan area grew by an estimated 4,756 residents between July 2008 and July 2009, the Census reported. That number represents a 1.1 percent growth rate for one year, but it makes for a 17 percent growth rate since 2000.

“An increase in population is good for commerce, and it is generally a sign of a healthy community,” said state demographer Matt Hesser. “Areas with decreasing population usually have a declining tax base.”

The data isn’t really a surprise to area leaders who watch population trends.

Matt Morrow of the Home Builder’s Association of Springfield said the Census growth is consistent with the data his organization tracks.

“What we measure is not population growth, but home sales and housing starts,” he said. ” For the last year and a half we’ve been closing sales on new homes at twice the rate we’ve been starting new homes.”

In areas where population is declining, it can be very tough to make a living as a homebuilder, said Morrow.

The federal government considers Springfield’s metropolitan area to include Greene, Christian, Webster, Polk and Dallas counties.

Schools see more students

In Christian County, Nixa Superintendent Stephen Kleinsmith said his school district’s pre-K through grade 12 population stands at 5,535, which is 60 more students than at the same time last year.

“Our growth in Christian County has slowed down, but as the economy gets better, vacant housing will fill up,” he said.

Kleinsmith said his district’s long range plan calls for a bond issue in 2011 that would finance construction of a second junior high.

At some time in the future the district expects to have to expand the high school from its current capacity of 1,800 to 2,300, he added.

“We’ll probably hit our max capacity at the high school next year,” he said.

This April, several area schools are seeking voter approval for building projects, including Marshfield, Conway, Spokane, and Clever.

Sabrina Drackert, a marketing manager with the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said people move to the area for its educational opportunities, hospitals and the variety of businesses in the area.

While the newly released census data isn’t specific enough to indicate reasons for population growth, Drackert said the Chamber does track some statistics that show the increase in employment from area hospitals, as well as enrollment in area colleges.

For instance, in 2001 at Missouri State University — then called Southwest Missouri State — enrollment was 18,468; in 2009 that jumped to 20,842.

“It isn’t just at Missouri State. Drury has grown, Evangel has grown, and of course (Ozarks Technical Community College) has grown,” said Drackert.

Now ranked 111th

The newly released census data also indicated the 2009 estimated population of 430,900 in the Springfield area earned it a rank as the 111th most populous city in the United States. In 2000 the city ranked 125th.

Drackert said breaking into the top 100 most populous cities would be exciting for the city.

“Once you break 100, you are on the radar for other businesses to move here,” she said. “They are kind of looking for the top 100 metro areas.”

Hesser said the U.S. Census compiles its population estimates each year by starting with the 2000 census data, each year adding birth and death records from the state’s vital records office.

The bureau is able to track migration in and out of an area by tracking addresses and Social Security numbers people use when filing tax forms, or by Medicaid enrollment records for those over age 65, the demographer explained.

Additional Facts

Census preview
Census data, recently released by the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, shows each city’s percentage of population growth between 2000 and 2009, its estimated 2009 population, and where each metropolitan area ranks among the nation’s most populated areas.
– Springfield 17% 430,900 111
– Columbia 14.1% 166,234 242
– Kansas City 12.6 % 2,067,585 29
– Joplin 10.8% 174,300 233
– St. Louis 4.8% 2,828,990 18