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Still growing, but slowing down

When the U.S. Census Bureau speaks, people in these parts tend to listen. Gwinnett and growth have been synonymous for the last 40 years. So last week's release of new population estimates is of particular interest and gives us a good look at the trends for the most recent year and over the last eight - since the last decennial census.

It's not surprising that the Census Bureau tells us the county added another 18,033 residents in a year's span - July 1, 2007, to July 1, 2008. What is surprising is that the growth has slowed considerably, down from an eight-year average of 24,000 per year. The peak year was July 2005 to July 2006, when nearly 30,000 joined us.

Certainly, the downed economy contributes to fewer people changing addresses. When things improve, growth should pick up. Expect a spike in the year following economic recovery, then the number is expected to settle down to somewhere about 20,000 per year.

The Governor's Office of Planning and Budget says that sometime around 2015, Georgia will have added another 314,000 residents to reach 10 million. Based on projections, at that time one out of every 11 Georgians will live in Gwinnett. The political and economic implications are huge.

In the battle of the metro counties, Fulton was the big gainer in the year, climbing to over 1 million by adding 22,460 people. That continues a reversal of an earlier trend that saw people moving out of the city and into the suburbs. Urban living is said to be resurging, and these numbers confirm it.

Forsyth added 6,194 residents for a 6 percent growth in the year. But in the last eight years, the county has grown by 67 percent. It now has a population of 168,000.

Cities, too, are growing. Every Gwinnett municipality added residents in the last year.

County seat Lawrenceville remains king of Gwinnett with 29,258 people. It actually increased its lead in the past year on No. 2 Duluth, which has 26,125. Duluth had been closing the gap. Snellville comes in third with 20,112 "somebodies."

Braselton counted 1,737 in the 2000 Census and since has experienced a 220 percent growth. The town that sits in four counties now has a population of 5,565.

Also impressive is Suwanee. That has grown from about 10,000 in 2000 to 16,000 in 2008. It added 527 people in the most recent year.

Outside Gwinnett, the city of Jefferson saw 6 percent growth in the year and 94 percent growth since 2000. The city in Jackson County claims 7,911 residents. Loganville is also seeing a spurt. Its population of 10,562 nearly doubled in the last eight years.

J.K. Murphy is publisher of the Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.