Iowa: room for growth?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released population estimates for the nation, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Iowa's population, according to the estimate, grew to 2.99 million.

The increase is a good news/bad news story. It's encouraging that the state's population increased and did not decrease, like Michigan and Rhode Island, but the rate of growth is far behind the rest of the nation.

Iowa's population growth ranked among the lowest in the nation this year, a one-half percent increase to about 2.99 million people. Since 2000, Iowa's population has increased by about 61,700, or 2 percent.

Contrast that to the boom areas of Nevada and Arizona. Nevada returned to the top spot having increased in population by 2.9 percent to 2.6 million. Nevada held that title for 19 years in a row before being bumped off by Arizona last year. Arizona is the second-fastest-growing state according to the current estimate, with a population increase of 2.8 percent to 6.3 million.

The total U.S. population was estimated at 301.6 million last July 1. The fastest-growing states continue to be in the Rocky Mountain region and the Southeast. Texas also is still attracting new residents at a rapid rate.

We have seen this trend for the past decade as our state continues to age. The consolidation of agriculture to larger farms has had a ripple effect through the state as fewer people work and live on the farm and urban areas see growth.

But still, our state has much to offer: Iowa is safer and a better place to raise a family. Luring people back to Iowa has been a Gordian Knot for state and local government, trying a variety of programs to get Iowans to move "home" from other states or finding ways to encourage Iowans never to leave.

An innovative approach is being tried during the caucus season, as volunteers and paid campaign staffers set up temporary residence in Iowa. Gov. Culver and Lt. Gov. Patty Judge have set letters inviting the workers to consider staying in Iowa.

You have to take your shots when you get the chance. What's the worst that could happen?