Cherokee County one of fastest-growing counties in Oklahoma, census shows
BY CURTIS KILLMAN World Staff Writer
Thursday, April 05, 2012
4/05/12 at 7:28 AM
For more about the 2010 Census data.
Cherokee County was the fastest-growing county in northeast Oklahoma since 2010, according to just-released U.S. Census Bureau population estimates.
The county and its largest city, Tahlequah, grew by 1.8 percent since the 2010 Census, ranking it No. 6 among state counties in population growth from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.
Five other Oklahoma counties that grew at faster rates were located in other areas of the state.
The figures are among the first set of Census Bureau population estimates to be released since the 2010 Census population counts were released a year ago.
Among those are the population of Cherokee County, which since 2010 grew by 858 to 47,845 people, according to Census Bureau estimates.
The population growth may be due to the recent expansion of Tahlequah City Hospital.
That's a primary reason why Dr. John Fell moved his family from Pryor about six months ago.
Fell said he wasn't looking for a new job when he toured the hospital, but he quickly changed his mind.
"I was really sold when I walked into the place with what they were doing with the hospital and the growth that it had achieved certainly in the economic times we were having," Fell said.
Fell settled his family in the Keys area. Keys and areas located farther south in the county have seen steady increases in population in recent years, Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director David Moore said.
Retirees have been drawn to communities near Lake Tenkiller, Moore said.
But in recent years, Moore said, he's noticed people moving to other areas of the county, particularly the eastern portion.
And it's not just residents moving from other areas of the state, he said.
About half of the information packets the chamber sends to prospective residents live outside the state, Moore said. Many of those sent out of state are to California residents, he said.
New residents are drawn to the area by a lower cost of living and employment opportunities, Moore said.
Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols called the county "a wonderful place" to live.
"We are blessed with institutions like Northeastern University and the Cherokee Nation, which provide job opportunities that usually aren't available to nonmetropolitan communities," Nichols said.
The Census Bureau attributed 56 percent of the population growth in Cherokee County to those moving to the county from other areas of the state and other states, so-called domestic migration. International migration, or residents relocating from outside the United States, accounted for 4 percent of the new residents to Cherokee County, according to the Census Bureau. As a comparison, about one in five new residents to Tulsa County since 2010 was attributed to international migration.
Nearly 80 percent of new Tulsa County residents came from a so-called natural increase in the population, or the difference between the number of births and deaths.
Domestic migration accounted for an estimated 27 new residents to Tulsa County since 2010.
Tulsa County ranked No. 18 in the state in overall county population growth since 2010. The population of Tulsa County since 2010 increased 1.2 percent to 610,599 people.
Population figures from the Census Bureau showed the Tulsa Metropolitan Statistical Area grew 1 percent to 946,962 people from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011, according to the Census Bureau. The Tulsa MSA, the 54th most populous in the nation, is composed of the populations of Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers, Wagoner and Tulsa counties.
The Oklahoma City metro area grew by 2 percent to 1,278,053 people from April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011.
The growth in the Oklahoma City MSA drove it from 44th in the nation to No. 43, eclipsing Richmond, Va.
Nationwide, the Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, Wash., metro area was the fastest-growing MSA with a 4.3 percent population increase to 264,133 people.
Elsewhere in Oklahoma, Canadian County ranked No. 1 in the state and 37th in the U.S. in growth since 2010 with a 3.4 percent jump in population. Canadian County picked up 3,951 residents since 2010 and had a population of 119,492, according to the Census Bureau.
Texas County, located in the state's Panhandle, ranked No. 2 in the state and 46th in the nation in population growth since 2010.
Oklahoma County, the state's largest county, grew by 1.9 percent since 2010 to 732,371 people. Oklahoma County is the 80th-largest county in the nation.
The Census Bureau said Blaine County shrunk by 18 percent since 2010. The county lost 2,163 of its population since the 2010 Census.
The number lost is about the same number of inmates who were housed in the privately run Diamondback Correction Facility until it closed in May 2010. The facility housed inmates serving sentences from other states and were subsequently relocated outside Oklahoma, state Department of Corrections spokesman Jerry Massie said.
Population change since 2010
Population change among northeast Oklahoma area counties
Original Print Headline: Cherokee County shows fast growth
Curtis Killman 918-581-8471
Dr. John Fell, who previously lived in Mayes County, recently moved to one of the state's fastest-growing counties, Cherokee County, where he is a doctor at Tahlequah City Hospital. CORY YOUNG/Tulsa World