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Friday, March 15, 2013 - 10:25am

Georgia Continues To Grow

Georgia grew by 100,000 people between July 2011 and July 2012, and the state is home to the nation’s fastest-growing county.

Just-released population estimates from the Census Bureau show those new arrivals are a combination of new babies and people moving to the state from elsewhere in the nation and world. It’s growth of 1.1 percent and puts the state’s population at more than 9.9 million.

By sheer numbers, most of the growth was in metro Atlanta as well as Savannah and Columbus.

Much of south Georgia continued to lose population, with Sumter, Brooks and Turner counties seeing some of the biggest drops.

University of Georgia demographer Doug Bachtel said the economic downturn is pushing people out of agricultural areas.

“People aren’t moving into declining areas that’s primary economy is based on agriculture. Agriculture is a natural-resource-based industry, and they’re one of the first hit and last to recover,” Bachtel said.

Chattahoochee County, just south of Columbus, is growing at a 10.1 percent clip, the quickest of any county in the nation. County Manager Thomas Weaver said that number is misleading, however.

“Eighty-two percent of Chattahoochee County is owned by Fort Benning, so a lot of that population is definitely Fort Benning. Our local population in the area that we serve is actually only about 3,500. With Fort Benning included, it’s about 14,000,” Weaver said.

“It makes Chattahoochee County look as if we’ve had an exorbitant amount of growth when, in reality, a lot of it is just soldiers returning from their deployment,” Weaver said.

Weaver said soldiers are counted when they’re stationed there, but not while they’re deployed. So the population numbers fluctuate.

Still, Benning has been growing, including the addition of the Army’s Armor School in recent years. So Weaver said some of the population increase is real.