Growth in Greeley
Metro area claims nation’s fourth fastest rate of population increase
All of Weld County took a hit when oil prices collapsed in late 2014. But that didn’t deter a net 7,300 people from moving there, which allowed the Greeley metro area to claim the nation’s fourth fastest rate of population growth, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Greeley metro area, which includes Weld County, increased by 9,879 people between July 1, 2015 and June 30, bringing its population to 294,932. That 3.5 percent rate of population growth ranked fourth out of the 382 metro areas tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Migration contributed a large share of the overall population growth in Weld County. The migration from other areas, including the Western Slope and other Front Range counties, is due in part to access to housing,” said Cindy DeGroen, projections demographer at the Colorado Demography Office.
Weld County’s population growth rate actually accelerated last year, surpassing the 3.2 percent pace in the 12 months ending June 30, 2015.
After Greeley, the next fastest growing metro in the state was Colorado Springs, which added 14,708 people, enough to push its population to 712,327. That 2.1 percent growth rate ranked 29th in the country.
Fort Collins added 6,124 people and has an estimated population of 339,993. The 1.8 percent pace ranked 51st.
The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood metro area added 44,261 people, lifting the total population to 2,853,077. The 1.6 percent rate of population growth ranked 66th in the country, but the numeric gain in population ranked 15th among metro areas.
The two slowest growing metro areas in the state were Grand Junction, which covers Mesa County, and Boulder, which covers Boulder County. Grand Junction added 1,682 people, lifting the population to 150,083. That 1.1 percent rate of growth ranked 106th.
Boulder also had a 1.1 percent growth rate but ranked 109th. The county added 3,488 people, bring its population to 322,226.
Grand Junction has a natural-resources dependent economy which has been hurt by depressed commodity prices, especially for natural gas. That helps explain the comparatively sluggish gains versus other parts of Colorado. But Boulder County has a vibrant economy, which is usually associated with more robust population gains.
If affordable housing helped Weld County attract residents, a lack of it may be hurting Boulder.
Estately, a real estate search engine, reports that 75 percent of the home listings in the city of Boulder are priced at $1 million or higher, versus 25 percent of listings in the city of Denver listings and only 2.5 percent of home listings in Fort Collins.
DeGroen said net migration to Boulder County, which has averaged 3,009 people a year since 2010, dropped to 2,448 in the last census period. The county also experienced a slowing in natural increase, which is births minus deaths.
“Although births increased, the number of deaths due to an aging population increased also,” she said.
The U.S. Census Bureau also released numbers on county-level populations, and several smaller Colorado counties ranked high for their gains, DeGroen said. Costilla County, in south central Colorado, experienced a 4.4 percent gain in its population after adding 158 people, mostly from migration. Its growth rate ranked seventh for growth among U.S. counties.
Other smaller Colorado counties making the top 30 list for population gains include Ouray, up 4.23 percent or 197 people; Custer County, up 4 percent or 177 people; Archuleta County, up 3.8 percent or 470 people and Dolores County, up 3.79 percent or 75 people, DeGroen said.