Things have slowed down since Forsyth was named the nation’s fifth fastest-growing county in 2006, but it’s still growing.
The U.S. Census Bureau released its 2011 population numbers last week, revealing Forsyth County was the 33rd-fastest-growing county in the nation.
“Since late 2007, beginning of 2008, there was a real decline in residential growth of the community and that was a result of national trends,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. “If you look around the country, people aren’t moving like they have been in the decade prior.
“All of that kind of goes back to if you can’t sell your house, you’re not going to move. And if you don’t have a job, you’re not going to move.”
But McCoy also said the county has been able to avoid being impacted as significantly as others in the nation, largely because of its commercial growth and quality education, he said.
Census data show Forsyth growing from an estimated 175,511 people in April 2010 to about 181,840 people in July 2011.
Last year, one of Georgia’s least populous counties, Charlton, was considered to be the country’s fastest growing. The south Georgia county added an estimated 1,251 people, a 10.3 percent increase, between 2010 and 2011.
In contrast, Census officials estimate Forsyth added about five times the people, which amounted to just a 3.6 percent increase in the larger county’s population.
The estimates released Wednesday are the first glimpse at the population since the decennial census in April 2010. Census officials say the data shows new patterns in population growth nationwide, but continues to show that metro areas in the Southern and Western regions of the United States are among the fastest growing.
Hall County has long been the population center of northeast Georgia, but the 2011 estimates show Forsyth County’s growth could make it more populous than Hall by the end of this year.
Forsyth had some 1,200 fewer people than Hall in 2011, according to the numbers.
Adam Hazell, planning director for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, said it’s because of the different patterns of growth.
The commission helps 13 northeast Georgia counties plan for future population growth.
In the last decade, both Forsyth and Hall became attractive landing pads for residential and retail developers, offering land that was cheaper than metro Atlanta.
“Metro Atlanta was where the jobs are,” and Forsyth and Hall, “on the fringes of it — that’s where the houses were going to go,” said Hazell.
But the two developed differently. Forsyth’s proximity to densely populated Atlanta fostered additional high-density growth, Hazell said.
Forsyth, Hazell said, is more likely to have high-density townhome developments than Hall County.
McCoy said for now, the housing market, once oversaturated in Forsyth, will come back, but at a much more conservative rate.
“We are all learning from that lesson,” he said.
But the county will still continue to grow, McCoy said, because “we have rock solid schools, we have low taxes, we have great parks and recreation facilities and there’s just great economic opportunities to be had here.”
“It’s just a great place to live.”
FCN regional staff writer Ashley Fielding contributed to this report.