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Fulton and Izard counties both show growth in 2010 census

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Salem's population signs will soon be updated to reflect modest growth. The 2010 Census count puts the city's population at 1,635, an increase of 44 residents over the past 10 years. Arkansas cities and counties are analyzing the numbers to see whether their population is growing or shrinking. Photo by Richard Irby
Fulton and Izard Counties have added population over the past ten years, and most of Arkansas' population growth is taking place in northern Arkansas.

Those are some of the results as the Census Bureau released figures showing the populations of Arkansas cities, towns and counties, according to the 2010 census count.

"The numbers are good," said Fulton County Judge Charles Willett. "An increase in people is always good."

In 2000, Fulton County's population was 11,642 residents. The 2010 census found 12,245 residents, a 5.2 percent increase.

While Judge Willett is pleased with the count, he believes the county can raise its numbers even higher by the next census.

"We get a lot of retired folks moving to this area and love to have them," Willett told The News, "but I would like to see some industry and other development that would result in family growth. More families locating here would help the school system and others."

"The main thing we need to do is get the word out on what we have to offer," said Horseshoe Bend Mayor Bob Barnes.

Barnes was disappointed to learn that Horseshoe Bend's population dropped by 89 people over the last ten years. The 2010 population puts the city's population at 2,273.

Barnes said the city is developing a website and discussing other ways to promote the city.

"We've never had much industry here," said Barnes. "Horseshoe Bend was started as a retirement area and we need promote more, draw more people in, retirees and others, to take a look."

Izard County's second largest city added 75 residents over the past decade. Melbourne's 2010 population is 1,848 residents.

According to the 2010 census, Izard County grew by 3.4% over the past decade, increasing total population to 13,396.

The most startling local Census numbers come from Calico Rock. It has grown from 991 residents to 1,545, an increase of 554 people.

A closer look reveals Calico is not really a growth hot spot. Last year, the city incorporated the state prison into the city limits, picking up 554 inmates as "residents."

The main benefit of the move is, Calico Rock stands to reap more state funds ($15,000-$20,000 a year), since the "turn back" process near the end of the budget year is based on population.

Of all the cities in Fulton and Izard Counties, Mammoth Spring is the most unhappy with last year's census count.

"They say we lost 170 people and I can't account for it," said Mayor Jean Pace.

The 2010 census tallied 997 residents, down from 1147 in 2000.

"We have not lost water company customers. We have had new homes built, new people moving in and there are not many homes for sale here right now."

Pace adds at least ten new businesses have opened in Mammoth Spring in the past year and she expected to see the city's population rise to at least 1200.

The Census Bureau allows cities, counties and states who believe they were under counted to appeal. That is exactly what Mayor Pace intends to do.

"We have not been below 1,000 (residents) for many, many years," said Pace. "I don't know what the problem is, but I am going to get to the bottom of it. I am already working to file a protest."

Arkansas' total 2010 population was 2,915,918, a 9.1 percent increase.

Pulaski County grew 5.9 percent and remains the most populous county in Arkansas with 382,748 residents.

Little Rock remains the largest city with 193,524 people.

From Ft. Smith, Fayetteville and Bentonville in northwest Arkansas to Jonesboro in the northeast corner of the state, northern Arkansas is where most of the state's population growth was found.

Mayor Barnes sees that as a good sign that the northern growth will continue, and begin moving to the north central region.

"I think north central Arkansas is the best kept secret there is," said Barnes, who is confident the secret will get our as time goes on.

Counties in the extreme southern region of Arkansas and the Delta region along the Mississippi River in south east Arkansas lost the most population, due to the loss of industry and jobs in recent years.

The Delta city of Pine Bluff is also threatening to challenge its census numbers. Its population fell ten percent over the past decade to 49,083, dropping it from Arkansas' sixth largest city to ninth.

In our region, Jonesboro continues to show strong growth. Jonesboro has gained 17,000 residents over the past 13 years. Its 2010 population reached 67,000 residents.

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