By editorial board • 

Population mark puts spotlight on a history of steady growth

Last year, Yamhill County became the 10th county in Oregon to top the 100,000 mark

In 2012, Yamhill County became the 10th county in Oregon to top the 100,000 mark, according to the most recent population report by Portland State University and detailed last week in the News-Register.

As profiled in the article, and well-known by residents, the county has a many amenities making it an attractive place to live: award-winning schools, strong library systems, a comfortable blend of small- to medium-sized cities and rich natural surroundings.

According to PSU, the county population was 100,550 as of July 1. That’s up from 99,850 in 2011 and 99,193 in 2010, a growth rate of just 0.7 percent a year. After a few more years of slower growth, we expect to see a surge in local population as the area continues to be discovered by future residents.

Examining U.S. Census numbers, the county experienced steady growth, with an 80 percent increase since 1980, when the population was about 55,000. The county grew by an average of about 2,000 people each year through the ’90s. Growth slowed in the first five years of the 2000 decade, then jumped by 7,000 during the three-year period of 2005-08 before slowing again.

We can speculate that the wine industry boom drove much of the three-year growth spike and that it leveled off with the recession that has affected growth throughout Oregon. We further would predict those cycles will come full-circle in upcoming years, assuming the economy continues to rebound with growth rates returning to levels similar to the 1990s.

Overall, Yamhill County’s population has displayed a steady upward-trending growth line. We are listed as part of what is now called the “Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA Metropolitan Statistical Area” but, fortunately, the county has not experienced the kind of excessive population growth rates seen in several other Metro counties.

Yamhill County seems to be nearing an enviable time when small-town charm is infused and energized with larger city comforts. Local cultural offerings are increasing, with more entertainment, shopping and recreation options. Add the county’s foundation of good education, steady government and strong support systems created by myriad service groups and community-driven organizations, and it’s no wonder people who visit the county often don’t leave.

It surely will take fewer than 150 years for Yamhill County to gain its next 100,000 residents. It’s almost a scary thought, but that uneasy feeling is calmed by our track record of well-managed growth. We look forward to the next chapters in the lives of our once-small villages.

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