Cedar Rapids officials: Census figures show metro area needs workers

Iowa City area grows the most

Rick Smith
Published: March 29 2014 | 11:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:12 am in

CEDAR RAPIDS — Top officials in oil-rich North Dakota made a big splash last week when they launched a "Find-the-Good-Life-in-North-Dakota" campaign to woo workers to the state.

On Wednesday, Cedar Rapids officials were reading from a similar playbook in response to new U.S. Census Bureau estimates that show that the Cedar Rapids metropolitan statistical area (MSA), while growing, ranked sixth in percentage population growth from 2010 to 2013 among nine MSAs in the state.

"We need to have more people," Mayor Ron Corbett said. "As retirees exit the work force, we’re going to have to have replacement workers."

Allison Antes, work force strategist for the Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance, said Alliance-member employers talk often about the difficulty in finding employees, the result of which has been the Alliance’s campaign to attract and retain workers.

"We are committed to growing the work force population in our region," Antes said.

At the same time, Corbett and Antes both were quick on Wednesday to note that the new Census Bureau population figures show that the Iowa City MSA, which is next door and includes Johnson and Washington counties, saw the largest percentage population growth from 2010 to 2013 among Iowa’s nine largest metro areas.

According to the Census Bureau figures, the two-county Iowa City MSA grew by 5.63 percent for the period, followed by the five-county Des Moines-West Des Moines MSA, which grew by 5.29 percent.

Other growing MSAs:

  • The eight-county Omaha-Council Bluffs MSA grew by 3.44 percent
  • The one-county Ames MSA by 3.2 percent
  • The one-county Dubuque MSA by 2.18 percent
  • The three-county Cedar Rapids MSA by 1.74 percent
  • The four-county Davenport-Moline-Rock Island MSA by 1.05 percent
  • The three-county Waterloo-Cedar Falls MSA by 0.99 percent
  • The five-county Sioux City MSA, by 0.09 percent.

In the past, Cedar Rapids officials have asked the Census Bureau to merge the Cedar Rapids and the Iowa City MSAs. But there needs to be a certain percentage of workers going between two MSAs before they can be considered one.

Even so, Corbett said two metro areas, which promote themselves as Iowa’s Creative Corridor, market themselves as one.

"We voluntarily combine MSAs," he said.

Antes said the growth in the Corridor "was encouraging to see."

Nancy Quellhorst, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa City Area Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that part of the fuel for population growth in the Iowa City metro area has come from "an emergent international student population," which she said has "reinforced" Iowa City’s cosmopolitan atmosphere in a way that helps to lure more people.

"The creative talent we attract then enhances our economy through their successful ventures," Quellhorst said. "Consequently recent growth has had both immediate and long-term effects."

Cedar Rapids’s Corbett said no one should forget that the Cedar Rapids metro area is increasing its population even though it continues to recover from a flood disaster in 2008. Cities such as New Orleans can’t say the same, he said.

"That shows the resiliency in our community," the mayor said.

The Census Bureau also released population data on counties and smaller metro areas, which it terms micropolitan statistical areas.

Among Iowa’s 99 counties, Johnson County has seen the highest percentage population growth from 2010 to 2013 except for Dallas County, which is home to part of the fast-growing Des Moines suburb of West Des Moines.

Linn County’s percentage growth from 2010 to 2013 ranked eighth among Iowa’s 99 counties while elsewhere in Eastern Iowa, Dubuque County’s percentage growth was ninth, Washington County’s 14th and Iowa County’s fifteenth.

Johnson County has grown 6.32 percent from 130,882 to 139,155 while Linn County’s population increased 2.31 percent from 211,226 to 216,111.

In actual population growth numbers in the one year from 2012 to 2013, Johnson County added 2,727 people compared to Linn County, which added 926 people, according to the estimates.

By way of comparison, Polk County added 7,668 people in the year, Dallas County, 2,543, Scott County, 1,709, Black Hawk County, 908, and Dubuque County, 635.

Twenty-nine of Iowa’s 99 counties and the state as a whole have increased in population between 2010 and 2013, according to the Census Bureau figures.

Iowa’s population increased 1.43 percent, from 3,046,355 in 2010 to 3,090,416 in 2013.

The 22 counties with the largest drop are in the western half of the state. Fremont County, the most southwestern of Iowa’s counties, saw the largest negative growth, at 4.85 percent.

Among other Iowa counties, Polk County (Des Moines) ranked third in percentage population growth, up 4.89 percent from 430,640 in 2010 to 451,677 in 2013; Story County (Ames) ranked fourth, up 3.2 percent from 89,542 to 92,406; Scott County (Davenport) ranked fifth, up 3.12 percent from 165,224 to 170,385; and Black Hawk County (Waterloo) ranked sixteenth, up 1.11 percent from 131,090 to 132,546.

Among some other Eastern Iowa counties: Washington County’s population was up 1.43 percent and Buchanan County, 0.09 percent.

Others lost population: Jones was down 0.13 percent; Iowa County, down 0.15 percent; Winneshiek County, down 0.29 percent; Cedar County, down 0.57 percent; Tama County, down 1.08 percent; Allamakee County, down 1.12 percent; Delaware County, down 1.29 percent; Benton County, down 1.45 percent; Poweshiek County, down 1.65 percent; Keokuk County, down 1.73 percent; Fayette County, down 1.81 percent; and Clayton County, down 1.96 percent.

None of the 11 micropolitan areas or smaller Iowa metro areas grew more than the Cedar Rapids MSA.

Spirit Lake’s area grew most among the 11, with 1.73 percent.

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