Population decreases in Southwest Michigan

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

Michigan’s population increased for the fourth straight year in 2015. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Southwest Michigan.

According to 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week, Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties all showed decreases in population.

Berrien County posted the biggest loss among the county-level data, with 663 fewer residents. Cass County lost 118 residents and Van Buren lost 100 residents.

Ryan Simpson, Community Development Division director at Kinexus, said trends over the past decade have shown people are moving to more urban areas.

“People want to live and work in places that offer the best possible quality of life,” Simpson said. “Throughout the years, cities and major metropolitan areas have been very successful at creating vibrant, fun places that offer amenities that rural areas simply have not.”

graphicWestern Michigan counties led Michigan’s population gains in 2015, while recent growth in Detroit-area Macomb and Oakland counties is slowing, the census estimates show. Kent and Ottawa counties had the biggest population increases.

Over the past five years, the Tri-County area has seen a steady, but small population decline.

“In the short term, we should expect much of the same. However, people are beginning to move more and more to the west side of the state,” Simpson said. “If we position and brand our region as a go-place, we may pick up some of this migrating population.”

Because the economy includes the exchange of goods and services between people, Simpson said a decreasing population would typically mean a reduction in the overall exchange.

Simpson said trends have shown Southwest Michigan will not see substantial growth in population. However, the area’s economy will be affected by the manufacturing and health care sectors in the more populous western Michigan counties.

“As our urbanized cores in west Michigan, chief among them Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids, continue to show an increase in population, we can expect to see our suppliers continuing to pick up momentum,” he said. “As our core industries expand, long term we may see small growth.”

State population highlights

According to the census estimates, Michigan’s population gains came from births outpacing deaths – rather that new residents.

Census estimates show the state gained 6,270 residents, increasing 0.06 percent to more than 9.9 million as of July 2015. Michigan remained the nation’s 10th most populous state.

Kent and Ottawa counties led state growth in 2015, while Wayne County ranked at the bottom.

However, there was a silver lining for those inhabiting the metro Detroit region.

For the first time in eight years, Wayne County didn’t lead the nation in population decline. It fell to No. 2 behind Cook County, Illinois, home to Chicago.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on April 3, 2016)

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