The economic downturn in several northern Indiana cities that rely on the RV industry for jobs has apparently taken a bite out of their populations as well.
The U.S. Census reported Thursday (Feb. 10) that the populations of Elkhart and Nappanee declined from 2000 to 2010.
Elkhart lost 925 people over the decade, while Nappanee lost 62. They were the only communities in Elkhart County to lose population over the decade. Both cities are home to leading RV manufacturers and suppliers.
Elkhart’s loss amounted to 1.8% of its population, tumbling from 51,874 in 2000 to 50,949 in 2010.
Hispanic population soared almost 50%, from 7,678 to 11,451, while non-Hispanic white population fell, from 34,655 to 29,565.
According to the census, Elkhart County’s population grew to 197,559 in 2010. That’s 14,766 more people than in the 2000 census, the Goshen News noted.
Also, the county’s population 18 years old or older was 141,384 in 2010 compared to 129,992 in 2000. The under 18 years old population was 56,175 in 2010 and 52,799 in 2000. More people now live in the unincorporated areas of the county than in the cities and towns.
The population of Goshen grew to 31,719 from 29,383 in 2000. The 18 and over population of Goshen was 23,030 with 8,689 people under 18. The racial makeup of Goshen was 21,140 white and 10,579 minorities. Of those minorities, Hispanics numbered 8,903, blacks 815 and Asians 381. Other minorities rounded out the total.
“That’s what I have been telling people. I have been telling people about 32,000,” Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said of the new census figures for the city.
“It doesn’t surprise me that we have grown. We have a quality community and we are attracting people,” he said.
The mayor did wonder if the recession had an impact on lowering the city’s population, but indicated that would be hard to track.
“I am pleased that we have grown. And it seems like it is manageable growth. You always hear that for cities, if you are not growing, you’re dying.
“I think a lot of things are going right in Goshen. With the population growing, that is kind of an indication of that,” Kauffman said.
Elkhart County Commissioners President Mike Yoder also embraced the growth as good news.
“We are a growing, vibrant county,” Yoder said.
The county was hit hard by the recession and now there remains a lag in economic growth. “But we will be back and continue to grow,” Yoder said.
He said he has seen “flashes of light out there,” in the local economy and he is optimistic about the county’s future.
“I think we will experience growth we had about eight years ago. I think that will happen again soon,” Yoder said.
And as that growth comes about, better land use practices will be crucial to protect the county’s remaining farmland, according to Yoder.
“We (the nation) have to double food production in the next 50 years and there is no more farmland.” He said protecting the remaining farmland, “Is morally the right thing to do. I think we need to be much better at planning,” he said.