Rowan’s population up a few hundred in census estimates

Published 12:10 am Friday, March 27, 2015

By Josh Bergeron

Rowan County’s total population is growing ever so slightly, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics.

Released this week, U.S. Census estimates as of July 1, 2014, show Rowan County’s total population at 138,630 people, which is about 300 more than in the prior year. Since 2010 — the last official census survey — Rowan’s population numbers have fluttered. The latest data is, however, higher than the official 2010 census by about 200 people and the 2000 census by more than 8,000.

Robert Van Geons, executive director of Rowan Works Economic Development, said the 200-person increase may seem small, but is significant in comparison to surrounding counties.

“Two hundred people does mean something when other counties are losing people by the thousands,” Van Geons said.

Rowan County’s growth rate is slower than most counties surrounding Charlotte. Cabarrus County gained more than 4,000 residents in the latest census estimates and Iredell gained about 2,000. Mecklenburg County, meanwhile, gained about 20,000 additional residents, soaring over the 1 million resident mark.

When asked about the census numbers, Greg Edds, chairman of the Rowan County Commissioners, said they were positive, but he had hoped to see people moving to Rowan County by the thousands.

“We have struggled to grow, but now we are seeing significant signs of the growth we desire,” Edds said. “The question is: who is coming in?”

Edds said it was important for Rowan County to attract a young, working age class of people. The most recent initial census data didn’t include demographic breakdowns of Rowan.

Census estimates for Davidson County show it gaining a similar number of residents as Rowan. Nearby counties that lost population include Davie, Stanly and Montgomery counties.

The Carolinas contained four of the nation’s fastest growing metropolitan areas between 2013 and 2014. The Myrtle Beach area was the second-fastest growing in the nation, Hilton Head Island was 13th, Raleigh was 15th and Charleston was 17th.

Economic development may play a part in Rowan’s future population growth, but county officials have to make the area desirable for working-class families, Van Geons said. He said the county is already an attractive location for business and industry, as Rowan is sandwiched between two of the top 100 metropolitan areas in the U.S. — Charlotte and the Piedmont Triad.

Recruiting additional industry and business isn’t enough to continue a population uptick, Van Geons said. An attractive public education system and quality of life also play into Rowan’s ability to increase its resident population.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246