GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For the first time in almost a decade, the state of Michigan has seen annual population growth – and the newly designated Grand Rapids Metro area is now composed of more than one million citizens.
The latest U.S. Census numbers show that 57 of Michigan’s 83 counties saw drops in population, but growth in the other 26 more than made up for the losses.
The greatest gains were seen in West Michigan; both Ottawa and Kent counties grew by more than 1% in the last year. Kalamazoo County grew .89%.
The Grand Rapids Metro area is now home to 1,005,648 citizens. The area is designated as Kent, Ottawa, Barry, and Montcalm Counties. Kent is considered the central county. To qualify as part of the Metro area, the outlining counties must have 25% of their population commuting to the central county daily.
Bottom line: one million is a big deal.
“When companies are doing searches, there’s literally a drop down box at one point in the selection process that says, ‘What size population community do you want?’ Tim Mroz of economic development group The Right Place says. ”And one million is a benchmark.”
“West Michigan often suffers as being thought of as flyover country and not a destination,” he says, ”so having this data point to get us on those lists, to get us in that game is gonna do a lot for us.”
Southwest Airlines and Cabela’s have already staked their claim to business in the area in the last few months. Home Goods opened local doors in Thursday.
“I think Grand Rapids and the West Michigan community is being seen nationally and internationally as a growing community, as an opportunity for business growth,” Mroz says.
“Doesn’t matter how good Medical Mile is, doesn’t matter how great our arena is or how great the quality of life is. If they select that selection box of over a million, up until yesterday or this morning, we would have been eliminated, so this is going to be a huge opportunity.”
“This is an announcement that’s going to last another decade.”
Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Rick Baker knows the last decade was great for the GR area. This new population milestone puts the city “at a whole other level.”
Around 40% of this new Metro area will commute into the city daily. Baker says that’s the beauty of the area, even as it keeps growing.
“Some folks – like myself – I like living downtown,” he says. ”Others like being in a more rural setting. What is really great about the Grand Rapids area is those commutes are pretty easy.”
Easy – and exciting – as more growth continues. This population number will stay with the area until the next census numbers come out in ten years.