A dip in population
Published 7:47 pm Thursday, May 2, 2019
Committee formed to ensure all are counted in 2020 census
Freeborn County’s estimated population decreased in 2018, according to numbers released last month from the U.S. Census Bureau.
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The federal agency states the county’s estimated population was 30,444 as of July 1, 2018, compared to 30,537 in 2017 in the same month.
According to the Census Bureau, the population estimates for the county have steadily decreased each year since the 2010 census, when the population was 31,255 — except for in 2017, when the estimated population increased by 128 — rising from 30,409 to 30,537.
“Hopefully it’s a wakeup call,” said Freeborn County Board of Commissioners Chairman Chris Shoff, who said he has encouraged more efforts to ensure all residents are counted in next year’s census.
If the county drops below a population of 30,000, law requires either combining public health and human services departments in the county or combining one of the departments with a department in another county, Shoff said.
District 2 Commissioner Dan Belshan said state and federal funding might also be impacted.
Belshan said he was not surprised to see the lower population estimate, given a loss of retail and industrial jobs in recent years, along with hospital services and what he described as a slumped agriculture economy.
“The ‘build it and they will come’ economic development plan is not working,” Belshan said. “It saddens me to see this happening, when so many other areas are thriving. Simply saying everything is fine doesn’t make it so.”
Shoff said county leaders need to focus on why the county has declined in population through the years. In addition to the loss of industrial jobs and a decrease in family farms, he said the county should look at long-term trends such as changes in automation.
He said the county needs to engage the area’s minority communities so that they feel comfortable in the county and will choose to stay here.
These minority community members are where the area is projected to grow in coming years he noted, citing Minnesota State Demographer Susan Brower.
Fifth District Commissioner Mike Lee said he thinks the county needs to work further with economic development officials and pointed out the importance of local hospital services.
Assistant City Manager Jerry Gabrielatos said city leaders think the estimates provided by the State Demographer’s Office, which are slightly higher in recent years, are more reflective of the current population.
The most recent numbers, released last July, showed Freeborn County with a estimated population of 30,550 in 2017 and Albert Lea with a population of 18,032. The demographer’s estimates showed an increase in Albert Lea’s estimated population from 2015 when it was estimated at 17,899 to 2016 when it was at 18,045.
Gearing up for the 2020 census
Gabrielatos said the city and county have organized a Complete Count Committee under the guidance of the U.S. Census Bureau with people from different sectors of life in the community to ensure that everyone is counted in the upcoming census.
Jim Accurso, the Minnesota partnership specialist from the U.S. Census Bureau, has attended the first meeting for the committee and also came to speak at the Freeborn County League of Cities meeting about outreach in the county’s smaller cities.
“This was an effective way to engage staff and elected officials from the other cities in the county,” Gabrielatos said.
Gabrielatos noted he has also connected Accurso with Penny Jahnke of Adult Basic Education to discuss the job opportunities available through the Census Bureau.
He said given that Adult Basic Education frequently works with people who are multilingual, this partnership would be beneficial to ensure that everyone is counted.
He also plans to meet with Workforce Development staff about the expected jobs with the census.
2018 estimated populations
Blue Earth County: 67,427
Faribault County: 13,758
Freeborn County: 30,444
Olmsted County: 156,277
Mower County: 40,011
Steele County: 36,803
Waseca County: 18,691
2010 Census: 5,303,925
2011 estimate: 5,345,668
2012 estimate: 5,376,550
2013 estimate: 5,413,693
2014 estimate: 5,451,522
2015 estimate: 5,482,503
2016 estimate: 5,523,409
2017 estimate: 5,568,155
2018 estimate: 5,611,179
Freeborn County population
2010 Census: 31,255
2011 estimate: 31,065
2012 estimate: 31,023
2013 estimate: 30,922
2014 estimate: 30,742
2015 estimate: 30,496
2016 estimate: 30,409
2017 estimate: 30,537
2018 estimate: 30,444
— Information from the U.S. Census Bureau