Spend a morning going through the most recent population estimates from the experts at Portland State University's Population Research Center, and you might come away with a couple of different thoughts:
First, Benton and Linn counties are going to have more people living here by 2035 — and even more people by 2067.
Second, it might be better to start long-range planning to accommodate those additional people now, rather than later.
PSU's Population Research Center recently issued its latest round of forecasts, and they make for fascinating reading. (The online version of today's column includes PDF versions of the center's reports for Benton and Linn counties.)
The numbers are different, of course, for each county and its communities. But the overall trends are similar: The population growth rate is expected to peak in 2020 and then slowly decline through 2067. The reduction in the rate is driven by an aging population, contributing to a steady increase in deaths, and the expectation of relatively stable in-migration over the second half of the forecast period. (The researchers base their estimates in large part by careful study of current and past trends, and so do not take into account more speculative ideas, such as the theory that the mid-valley could become an attractive relocation spot for people fleeing the effects of climate change.)
But even with a declining rate of population growth, the total numbers in each report are striking: The population of Linn County, estimated at 123,626 in 2017, could be at 146,481 in 2035 and 182,399 in 2067.
The population of Benton County, estimated at 92,287 in 2017, could rise to 110,274 in 2035 and to 125,570 in 2067.
I'll do the quick math for you: The population of Linn and Benton counties, with a combined total of 215,913 in 2017, is expected to rise by more than 40,000 souls by 2035 (just about 17 years from now). Stretch the time frame to 2067, less than 50 years from now, and the counties will need to accommodate another 92,000 people, even as the average annual growth rate drops to less than 1 percent in both counties.
Most of this population growth is expected to occur inside the counties' various urban growth boundaries, but the rates of growth will be different from town to town, the PSU experts said.
Consider Albany, for example, with an estimated population of 46,469 in 2017 in Linn County. That's expected to grow to 58,134 by 2035 and 77,255 by 2067.
But add in North Albany, which is in Benton County but gets many of its services from the city of Albany. By 2035, North Albany will grow from 7,586 souls in 2017 to 10,254. By 2067, North Albany could have a population of 14,305, almost doubling in size over the next 50 years. And together, Albany and North Albany will have a population of 91,560 by 2067, outstripping Corvallis, with an estimated 84,495 people by 2067.
PSU's population experts say Millersburg will continue to be the fastest-growing community in Linn County, with an estimated annual growth rate of 2.8 percent between 2017 and 2035 and slowing to a 1.7 percent growth rate between 2035 and 2067. The community had 1,795 people in 2017, but that will grow to 2,974 by 2035 and 5,147 by 2067.
Big changes are in store for Lebanon as well, with its population (19,416 in 2017) rising to 24,498 in 2035 and 34,628 in 2067.
Corvallis is expected to grow at about 1 percent annually through 2035 and 0.5 percent annually in the three decades afterward. That rate of growth would give Corvallis 73,164 people by 2035 and 84,495 in 2067.
But Benton County's fastest-growing community likely will be Adair Village (2017 population: 928), which is expected to grow at a 4.4 percent annual rate until 2035. That would leave it with 2,026 people in 2035. The growth rate cools off from 2035 to 2067, dropping to 0.3 percent, but the community still could have 2,255 people in 2067.
Similarly, Philomath is expected to grow at a 1.9 percent annual clip through 2035, slowing to 0.5 percent after that. Its population grows from 5,169 in 2017 to 7,222 in 2035 and 8,546 in 2067.
When I've written about these population trends before, I get blowback from some readers who are uncomfortable with the idea of sustained growth, and I understand some of those concerns. But we have two choices: We can pretend these trends aren't going to play out the way the experts say. Or we can start to think about how the mid-valley will absorb these additional souls, and the challenges and opportunities they offer. (mm)