2022 a Year of Slow Growth for the Region
Last week, the Indiana Business Research Center (IBRC) at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business released its annual report on population growth in the State of Indiana. Population growth is a top priority of the State and communities around the State and the IBRC is a critical resource for key datapoints that help us assess current progress.
How’d we do? Not as well as we would have liked. Overall, the state saw the smallest annual population increase since 2015 and saw fewer than 20,000 new Hoosiers for only the second time in the past 35 years. Current estimates have Indiana at 6.83 million residents.
Amongst the eight largest Counties in the State, four added population, four declined. Two of those Counties are in our region, St. Joseph, and Elkhart. Both declined, losing a combined estimated 283 residents last year, on the heels of losing 248 the year before. Also in the region, Marshall added 157, LaPorte lost 811, in 2022.
By contrast, Hamilton, Allen, and Tippecanoe counties we’re the real stars, with Hamilton again leading the way as the fastest growing County in the State over the past two years. This continues a trend of the Indianapolis donut counties seeing the state’s most consistent growth. In all, 55 of Indiana’s 92 counties posted a population gain in 2022.
A lot of factors influence population growth. Our focus is on in-migration/out-migration, or the number of people moving in or moving out. But births and deaths also are an important factor. Overall, given the pandemic impacts, deaths remain high, births remain low. That’s been a national trend, with twenty-four states experiencing more deaths than births.
The data was disappointing, given all the efforts to improve quality of place and drive population growth through programs like Regional Cities and READI. I don’t think we should be alarmed, yet. For six decades population growth was a real concern for the region. Prior to the pandemic, we had turned some important corners, though we’ve seemed to take a step backwards the past two years.
When our region developed its regional economic development strategy in 2018, our stated goal was to transform net migration to a positive in-migration. Generally, at the time, more people were leaving the community each year than were coming to it, but enough people were being born to offset those that passed away, keeping our population about the same level year to year.
Major investments in the communities around our region aimed at improving the quality of place and attracting new residents are underway. Indiana’s tax and business climate puts us on radars we wouldn’t otherwise be on. New housing projects are helping to fill an important gap that could drive population growth.
Quality schools play a critical role in people’s decision to locate in a community. Smaller family sizes and increased competition in the education space have driven some important community discussions about what education should look like in the future and the quicker decisions can be made and improvements implemented, the better for our people attraction efforts.
We must play close attention to population numbers. But population growth is a marathon, not a sprint. We must continue to prepare our community for long term success. We’re in stiff competition with communities around the world that all want the same people. We’ve got to work to continue differentiating why a family or individual should chose us.
How can you help? Convince your son or daughter to move back. Or that friend that moved away to consider the region again. Expand your business here and recruit new talent. Be a champion of our area/region when people ask you about it. Or you could grow your family! All of it will help us score better next time there is an update.