5 Fastest-Growing Counties in the U.S. Since 2010

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In the 1800s, newspaper editor Horace Greeley popularized the phrase, “Go West, young man,” urging people to get out of the cities and settle the American West. More than 150 years later, many families are still migrating, leaving the cities for greener pastures in the suburbs. It’s no surprise that most of the fastest-growing counties in the U.S. the past few years are suburban or exurban counties near large cities, where lower taxes, bargain real estate prices and good schools are a powerful magnet for growth. Here’s a look at the five fastest-growing counties of more than 75,000 residents since the 2010 U.S. Census.

 

5. Forsyth County, Georgia

Dunn Road in the Forsyth County town of Cumming seems a world away from the skyscrapers and traffic congestion of Atlanta. © Mike via Flickr

2010 Population: 175,511
2016 Population: 221,009
Increase: 25.9 percent
Why it’s Booming: Two words: Atlanta suburb. Over the past several decades, various suburban and exurban counties around Georgia’s capitol have mushroomed as the city’s population has spread. Popular Lake Lanier isn’t the only draw in Forsyth. Compared to other counties in the Atlanta metro area, Forsyth and the town of Cumming still boast relatively low property taxes and home prices. Safety and quality schools are other big incentives. Of course, as has happened in many areas before, rapid growth often comes with a price; schools become overcrowded, taxes increase, traffic becomes an issue, and longtime residents and growth-oriented business interests clash in local government. For now, times are still very good in Forsyth County.

 

4. Fort Bend County, Texas

The town square in Sugar Land, the largest city in Fort Bend County. © Ed Schipul

2010 Population: 584,703
2016 Population: 741,237
Increase: 26.8 percent
Why it’s Booming: As the saying goes, everything is bigger in Texas. That’s not hyperbole when it comes to population growth; the Lone Star State dominates the list of fastest-growing counties in the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10 of the 22 fastest-growing U.S. counties between 2010 and 2016 were in Texas. Predictably, all these are suburban counties outside the state’s biggest cities. Fort Bend County, located just southwest of Houston, experienced its first population boom in the 1970s — growing from around 52,000 residents in 1970 to more than 130,000 in 1980 — thanks to the energy industry. But the growth has continued since, with a diverse employment base that now includes food manufacturing, engineering and technology firms. The county’s largest city, Sugar Land, is regularly listed in national publications as among the best places to live, and one of the best places for businesses to relocate.

 

3. Dallas County, Iowa

Dallas County is booming while two-thirds of Iowa’s counties lost population between 2010 and 2016. © www.co.dallas.ia.us

2010 Population: 66,137
2016 Population: 84,516
Increase: 27.8 percent
Why it’s Booming: Dallas County’s strong growth is an anomaly, given the well-documented population decline in the Plains States in the past generation. And more than two-thirds of Iowa counties have shed population since the 2010 Census. But Dallas County has something most other counties don’t have in that region — proximity to a state capitol. Located just west of Des Moines, Dallas County has become a bedroom community for many government workers, and it’s drawn workers from elsewhere in the state to fill service jobs. According to the Des Moines Register, the number of Dallas County jobs increased 19.9 percent from 2010 to 2014.

 

2. Hays County, Texas

The picturesque San Marcos River cuts through the heart of Hays County. © Marilyn Brinker

2010 Population: 157,089
2016 Population: 204,470
Increase: 30.2 percent
Why it’s Booming: See No. 4 above. Hays County is an exurb of not just one, but two Texas cities; it’s located about an hour’s commute from both Austin and San Antonio. The usual draws found in other fast-growing counties apply here: Housing is still relatively cheap, the schools are good, etc. Historic San Marcos’ proximity to I-35 and I-10 has made it a magnet for businesses. The picturesque San Marcos River cuts through the heart of town, drawing kayakers and nature lovers.

 

1. Sumter County, Florida

Golf carts are everywhere in The Villages, a massive retirement community centered in Sumter County. © Ted Eytan

2010 Population: 93,420
2016 Population: 123,996
Increase: 32.7 percent
Why it’s Booming: Located in central Florida roughly equidistant from Orlando and Tampa, Sumter County has grown from a sleepy county of less than 12,000 residents in the mid-1960s. That growth essentially began with what sounds like a Florida urban legend — two businessmen began selling tracts of land via mail order. Although a federal law prohibiting mail-order land sales ended that practice in the 1968, the principal partner continued to develop the land, adding homes, commercial development and other amenities. Today, that retirement community, The Villages, has more than 115,000 residents and spills over into neighboring Lake and Marion counties. Partly as a result, Sumter County has been cited as having the oldest median age of any U.S. county (62.7 years as of the 2010 census). Billed as the world’s largest retirement community, The Villages is also attracting development around its edges, with health-care and financial workers catering to the older population. Many residents — including some from South Florida and the Sunshine State’s coasts — have moved to Sumter County to take advantage of less expensive land prices.

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