Some of the faster growing counties in the United States last year were in western North Dakota.
Still, the growth rates estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau in its final count before the official tally for 2010 are lower than local officials believe is reality.
Given Minot's housing shortage, booming construction and traffic congestion on Broadway, local officials are anxious for the official census count to set the record straight.
"They will see that Minot's count is up, and an accurate count is important in that," David Waind, Minot city manager, said.
The estimates show growth of 1.6 percent in Ward County from July 2008 to July 2009. Other area counties showing growth were McKenzie and Mountrail, 3.4 percent; Williams, 3.3 percent; Burke, 2.4 percent; Renville, 0.9 percent; Rolette, 0.7 percent; and Bottineau. 0.5 percent.
Ward County's growth is based on an estimated 908 new residents. Of those residents, 492 were newborn numbers resulting from births exceeding deaths, while the net migration gain was 432 residents.
The new estimates that also listed Minot's micropolitan population at 64,412, up 1.4 percent from 2008 but down 4.4 percent from 2000. The micropolitan area covers Minot's service area, including all of Ward County. Ward County's 2009 population estimate was 57,012, down 3 percent from 2000.
Minot officials estimate the city population alone at 40,000 people, based on factors such as water hookups and building permits.
"Intuitively, we see a lot of development around the city. The landscape in the five years I have been here is much different," said Jerry Chavez, president of Minot Area Development Corp. "I think the estimate was based on some historical data that I really think will be much different after the 2010 census count is taken."
Donna Bye, city planner, said an accurate 2010 Census will help ensure Minot is entitled to adequate funding for its roads and to assist with low-income housing all of which have been stressed with the influx of people.
Minot's Complete Count Committee has been working to encourage people to return their census questionnaires, which began arriving in homes last week.
"We are very anxious for the (2010) census to come out," said Williston Mayor E. Ward Koeser, predicting that his city's population could be between 14,000 and 15,000 in the new count.
Williams County's population estimate of 20,451 is up 3.5 percent from 2000, or an estimated 690 people. The estimates show Williams County gained 654 people just in the year ending July 1, 2009, of which 555 residents came through migration gains. Whether that's enough to create the kind of housing demand seen in places like Williston and Tioga will be settled once official census numbers are released, likely in the spring of 2011.
Koeser believes the population count is higher, but he's happy that the estimates do show an increase.
"We are pleased to be moving forward," he said.
The Census Bureau's December estimates reported net growth in North Dakota of 5,423 people and a new estimated population of 646,844.
Details in the latest estimates show that 20 counties experienced population growth. The largest numeric growth was 3,123 in Cass County, up 2.2 percent, followed by Burleigh with 1,377, up 1.8 percent. The largest percentage growth was Billings County's 3.6 percent. An analysis by the North Dakota State Data Center revealed that 45 percent of the population increase was in the eastern part of the state and 55 percent was in the west.
Statewide, the change from 2008 to 2009 showed births exceeded deaths by 3,420 and net in-migration added nearly 1,900, with 18 counties showing net in-migration.
For North Dakota's two largest metro areas, the 2009 estimates show Fargo/Moorhead at 200,102, up from 195,948 last year, and Bismarck/Mandan at 106,286, up from 104,629 last year.