As a region, West Michigan showed stronger population growth between 2000 and 2010 than most other parts of Michigan, which lost population overall, according to U.S. Census figures released Tuesday.
Ottawa County grew the fastest among the state’s 10 most populous counties, adding 25,487 residents in the past decade.
The Lakeshore county’s population grew by 11 percent, fueled by strong growth in its suburban communities of Holland Township, Georgetown Township, Grand Haven Township and Allendale Township.
Ottawa County ended the decade with 263,801 residents, moving it past Kalamazoo County to become the state’s 8th largest county.
Although Ottawa County's growth has slowed in recent years, County Administrator Al Vanderberg noted it's the fifth consecutive decade in which the county has shown double-digit growth.
"We still have a very strong manufacturing base, we have wonderful natural resources, we are first or second in the state in agriculture every year," Vanderberg said. "Ottawa County is still viewed as a great place to be."
Allendale Township, which counted its students at fast-growing Grand Valley State University for the first time, led the growth numbers in Ottawa County. The township counted 20,708 residents, 59 percent higher than 2000.
As a resident of Ottawa County for the past 55 years, County Commissioner Roger Rycenga said he's gauged the growth by the number of schools being built for the area's permanent residents.
Rycenga, a former Allendale Township supervisor, said he expects growth to continue in the Allendale area during the coming decade.
"I think Georgetown (the county's largest municipality) will slow down some," he said. "It's getting filled with residents. There is going to be pressure on other townships."
Kent County grew by 28,387 residents to maintain its rank as the state’s 4th most populous county. Kent County achieved a 4.9 percent growth rate, ending the decade with 602,622 residents.
Within Kent County, the city of Grand Rapids saw its population fall to 188,040 residents, down 9,760 residents, or nearly 5 percent.
Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said he was disappointed by the city's numbers. “The decline was a little more than we had estimated ourselves,” he said.
Heartwell said he believes the city's investments in health care, higher education and manufacturing leave it poised for growth when the economy recovers.
“I suspect in the upcoming decade, we're going to see significant improvement,” Heartwell said.
The census numbers held good news for most of Kent County, where most the outlying suburbs registered positive growth. Exceptions were Alpine Township and the cities of East Grand Rapids, Lowell and Grandville, which showed minor population declines.
Overall, the region showed growth in the face of a dismal statewide head count. The Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland consolidated statistical area grew 5.3 percent to 1.3 million residents, making it the fast growing consolidated statistical area in the state.
An eight-county region in West Michigan, which includes Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mecosta, Newaygo and Ottawa counties, grew to represent a larger piece of Michigan’s population pie.
The eight counties now represent 14.6 percent of Michigan’s total population, up from 13.7 percent in 2000. In total, the area had a total population of 1.44 million residents, up 5.7 percent, or 78,000 residents over 2000.
Wayne County remains the largest county in the state despite a loss of 240,578 residents, an 11.7 percent decline. Most of that decline came in the city of Detroit, which lost 237,493 residents, or 25 percent of its population which numbered 713,777 last year.
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