December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain County population grew slightly, census says

Lorain County grew, albeit slightly, in the last two years.

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According to U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday, Lorain County added 122 people from the April 1, 2010, census to the time of a July 1 population estimate.

The April 2010 figure put the county’s population at 301,356, while the July 1 estimate indicated there were 301,478 living in Lorain County.

The difference was a miniscule 0.04 percent increase, according to census numbers, which ranks Lorain County 20th in growth rate among Ohio’s 88 counties.

That is a far cry from the 5.8 percent growth the county enjoyed when it gained 16,692 residents between 2000 and 2010.

Don Romancak, director of the Lorain County Community Development Department, was studying the newly released numbers Thursday.

Romancak said it’s tough to make a definitive forecast from such a slight change, but he does believe signs of a slowly recovering housing market will bode well for the county in the next few years.

“I would anticipate growth in housing starts will pick up in the next couple of years,” Romancak said.

The county’s “low, slow growth rate we’ve been experiencing” over the past number of years is because “many homeowners who may like to relocate to Lorain County but have been unable to due to the housing market being frozen up for a time,” Romancak said.

Romancak also said the county will become an attractive spot for homebuilders thanks to a major expansion of sewer and waterlines in Eaton Township, and, to a lesser extent, in Columbia Township, which was among the county’s faster-growing areas before the Great Recession began in 2008.

“That will serve to be more attractive to developers as well,” Romancak said. “I’ve heard anecdotally from different public officials that things are starting to pick up, that they’ve seen an increase in activity.”

U.S. Labor Department reported that hiring in the construction industry rose by 48,000 in February, the highest figure since March 2007.

As more people take advantage of cheap borrowing costs and improved access to credit, financial analysts predict as many as 30,000 construction workers a month could land jobs in the next year.

The county’s population growth should also be buoyed by the hiring of an announced 450 workers by Republic Engineered Products in Lorain for its new $87 million electric arc furnace that will turn scrap steel into new bar and seamless-tube steel, Romancak said.

“That will mean continued vitality for the county,” Romancak said.

A resurgence in home construction should begin to reverse population declines in Lorain and Elyria, according to Romancak, who cited efforts by both communities to step up enforcement of building codes for blighted housing that include demolition of abandoned and deteriorating homes.

“This will help stabilize neighborhoods and you’ll begin to see a halt to the continued hollowing out of two of the county’s important cities,” Romancak said.

While Lorain County gained population from 2000 to 2010, Elyria and Lorain combined lost nearly 6,000 residents over the decade, with Lorain registering a loss of about 4,500 people.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.