Thurston County gained nearly 50,000 residents from 2000 to 2010, according to 2010 census data released Wednesday.
Census Bureau workers counted 252,264 people in the county during last year’s census, a 21.66 percent increase from the previous count in 2000.
The numbers have a wide range of uses, including helping to determine how much government aid localities receive and how many congressional seats go to each state. The statistics offer a variety of information, such as kind of housing people occupy and what race they are.
Thurston County’s fastest-growing city was Yelm, which saw its population jump 108 percent, to 6,848 from 3,289 in 2000.
South Sound cities all saw rapid growth – with the exception of Olympia.
Lacey’s population leaped 35.7 percent to 42,393 from 31,226 in 2000. Tumwater’s jumped nearly 37 percent to 17,371 from 12,698. Olympia’s grew 9 percent to 46,478 from 42,514.
Notably, the population of people who identify themselves as Hispanics in Thurston County rose 89 percent, to 17,787 from 9,392 in 2000. That outpaced the state, which experienced 71 percent Hispanic population growth.
Lacey’s growth came as no surprise to City Manager Greg Cuoio. He said the Thurston County Regional Planning Council projected the numbers.
He attributes his city’s growth to several factors – the availability of land, the increase in the number of troops at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the run-up of housing values in King and Pierce counties, which drove people south for affordable homes.
“I think we’ve done a very good job of keeping pace with the growth,” he said, “because our infrastructure is in excellent condition.”
But Cuoio, who will retire in June after serving as Lacey manager since 1987, said he sees growth slowing. The economy is contracting, particularly state government. And he said Lacey is almost built out and that the city has no interest in annexing into urban-growth areas where people don’t want to join the city.
“I don’t see us surpassing Olympia anytime in the near future, and that is not a goal,” he said.
Olympia Mayor Doug Mah predicted Lacey’s growth would outpace Olympia’s in the next 10 years, though he said there’s no contest on who has the highest population.
Mah and Roger Horn, the chairman of the Olympia Planning Commission, said they weren’t surprised at Olympia’s slow growth. Olympia is more built out, Horn added.
“We’re seeing growth as infill-type growth in the city,” he said. “It doesn’t offer the same opportunity as new developments for rapid growth.”
Olympia is in the midst of overhauling its comprehensive plan for the first time since 1994. Horn said that in neighborhood meetings, he has heard residents say people are accepting of growth downtown and on high-density corridors such as Martin Way, and Pacific and Harrison avenues.
Neighborhoods also will become more dense, Horn thinks, but in a way that maintains their character.
Mah, who heavily promoted the census during the counting, said he was pleased with the results.
“I’m just very thankful that we’ve had such a good count what I believe to be an accurate count,” he said. “That really was dependent on citizens participating.”
Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 firstname.lastname@example.org