Declining population not just a fort issue

We commended U.S. Sen. Rand Paul last week for sponsoring legislation that would more accurately count military people in Hopkinsville and Christian County’s population. Paul is advocating for a U.S. Census Bureau change long overdue to include deployed service members as residents of their assigned U.S. installations rather than the residence listed at their time of enlistment.

This is one response that makes sense in light of new census estimates showing the population of Hopkinsville and Christian County declined by nearly 1 percent from 2014 to 2015. However, Fort Campbell’s impact on the census is not the only factor that local officials have to consider.

The economy is always a key influence in population. Prior to retirement age, people are most likely to move into a community for a job. And residents tend to stay in a community if opportunities for work and advancement are strong.

We have to look to people who are investing in new business — along with public officials — to have the most influence on population growth. Local leaders must make growth a priority, and they ought to cooperate with entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks that result in new businesses that create jobs.

Other factors also influence economic development and must be part of an overall plan for growth. The quality of public and private schools, in addition to the community college and the Murray State University regional campus, all help determine the ability of the local workforce to meet the needs of the job market.

It is significant that a large percentage of Hopkinsville and Christian County residents live in poverty — 21.6 percent countywide and 23.6 percent in the city, according to the Census Bureau. Poverty has to be addressed first through education. Providing the best schools possible is a logical, long-term solution to our community’s economic challenges, and that in turn will create opportunities that spur economic and population growth.

We shouldn’t avoid looking at these issues and others, such as housing options and public amenities.

A community that wants to grow has to sell itself through a comprehensive approach that looks at quality of life, education, the economy, public safety and perception. What we say and think about ourselves as a community also determines whether others want to move here.

We have some work ahead of us. Hopkinsville’s population dipped from 32,499 in 2014 to 32,205 in 2015, according to the census estimate. The county population declined from 74,250 to 73,309.

Although the city’s population decreased by just 294 residents, the estimate affected Hopkinsville’s standing in the state. We dropped from seventh to ninth largest city, sliding below Georgetown and Florence.

Hopkinsville and Christian County can grow with strategic blueprint and the cooperation of business leaders, officeholders, local planners and economic development officials.

Kentucky New Era

comments powered by Disqus