by John Egan
Separately, the populations of the Denver, Boulder and Greeley metro areas in Colorado are on the rise. But collectively, the three adjoining metro areas are a true population powerhouse.
On the heels of already rapid growth, the Denver-Boulder-Greeley region is expected to experience an 18.9 percent spike in population from 2015 to 2025, according to a LawnStarter analysis of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and projections from the Colorado State Demography Office. Sometime in 2025, the region is forecast to surpass the 4 million-resident threshold, up from a little over 3.4 million in 2015, the analysis shows.
Brian Lewandowski, an economist at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of Business, says Denver-Boulder-Greeley and the rest of Colorado benefited from population growth during the Great Recession and continue to see post-recession population.
“Part of Colorado’s [post-recession] recovery was attributable to energy development that spiked on the tail end of the economic downturn, and part of the success has been Colorado’s mix of industries -- such as tech, software, engineering and R&D -- that have been performing well post-recession,” Lewandowski says.
In the 2015-25 period, the populations of the 12 counties that constitute the Denver-Boulder-Greeley region are projected to climb anywhere from 6.3 percent (Gilpin County) to 71.1 percent (Elbert County), the demography office’s forecast indicates. In second place behind Elbert County is Park County, with a projected 2015-25 growth rate of 50.1 percent.
As of 2015, Elbert County and Park County each had fewer than 25,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau.
Cindy DeGroen, projections demographer at the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, says the population outlooks for Elbert and Park counties are influenced by job growth in the Denver metro area, along with the ready availability of land and housing in the two counties.
“Both counties offer reasonable commutes into the metro area with less dense housing options,” DeGroen says.
Among counties with at least 100,000 residents, Weld County is projected to see the most explosive growth -- 40.9 percent from 2015 to 2025 -- while Jefferson County is predicted to see the most tame growth (10.6 percent), the state’s forecast says.
Brad Mueller, director of the City of Greeley’s Community Development Department, says Weld County stands to capitalize on population growth because it’s got more land available for development than Denver’s metro counties do and because its infrastructure is solid. The Greeley metro area covers just one county: Weld.
As for Jefferson County, Pam Bales, president and CEO of the West Chamber of Commerce, attributes the predicted tepid population growth, at least in part, to the county’s status as “the most rapidly aging county in the state.” Officials in Jefferson County are seeking ways to attract younger residents, she says.
Patty Silverstein, chief economist for the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., says Denver-Boulder-Greeley will continue to see much more population growth from so-called “net migration” (more people moving to the region than leaving) than from what’s known as “natural increase” (births minus deaths).
In terms of net migration, “Colorado was a magnet for baby boomers in the 1970s and 1980s, and these boomer residents are choosing to age in place,” Silverstein says. “As the boomers retire, the need for replacement workers is fueling the growth of the millennial population.”
Below is an infographic highlighting some of the big population changes that are on tap for the region.
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