Dayton lost nearly 3% of its population in the past decade — but slowed its decline compared to previous decades — according to delayed results from the 2020 Census released Thursday.
Meanwhile, other localities like Huber Heights, Fairborn and large swaths of Warren County saw significant gains.
Census data is critical in determining how much money the region receives from state and federal sources, said Brian Martin, executive director of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission.
“This is really important. All of our future funding levels will be based on this, including transportation,” he said.
Since Dayton’s population peaked in 1960 at about 260,000 inhabitants, the city has lost residents with losses between 6% and 20% each decade. In recent years, city leaders have said the city was gaining population.
Between the 2010 census and the 2020 census, Dayton lost 3,883 people to land at 137,644, a 2.7% decrease.
“I’m excited to see the decades-long trend of Dayton’s population decline finally flatten out,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley said in a statement. “Our population has stabilized as we see new investments in our city, new residents moving in, and long-time residents choosing to remain. ”
Nearby Cincinnati grew by 4% to reach 309,317 residents and Columbus, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, added nearly 120,000 people, a 15% increase, to reach 905,748 residents.
State Rep. Phil Plummer, R-Butler Twp., the former Montgomery County Sheriff, said he is troubled by Dayton’s population loss.
“I would attribute that to failed policies,” he said. Jobs, schools and safety are what attract people to an area, Plummer said; the city’s schools have made some progress, but crime may be deterring people from moving to Dayton or staying there.
Final numbers hewed closely to what Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission staff expected, showing effects of the Great Recession lingering through the next decade, Martin said.
“In terms of growth, we’re kind of rebuilding and reconstituting ourselves as a region. We still think we have a great foundation for the future. It’s just that 2010 to 2020, we’re still getting over the economic recovery,” he said. “That is borne out in these numbers.”
The region served by MVRPC still gained population, but Montgomery County’s anemic growth is concerning, Martin said.
“We rely on Greene, Miami and Warren to continue to grow, so that’s good to see,” he said. “But Montgomery County growing just by a hair doesn’t help because they’re more than half of the region.”
Montgomery County stayed relatively flat, growing by 2,156 people in the past decade to 537,309 in 2020, a 0.4% increase.
“The past three or so years our community has suffered quite a few hits, no question about it,” Montgomery County Commission President Judy Dodge said. She ticked off the 2019 tornadoes, a mass shooting and the effects of COVID-19.
Trotwood (site of many of the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes) lost 1,361 residents, about a 5.6% drop since the last census.
Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald said city officials expected to see some decline due to the tornado that swept through the area on Memorial Day 2019, one of 21 twisters to hit Ohio in a 24-hour period.
“We were the hardest hit in Montgomery County,” she said. “This tornado hit a number of our larger apartment complexes, where a number of families lived.”
It’s been hard to get people back because some of that housing has not yet been repaired, McDonald said. Developers are building new homes, but their price tags mean many people might not be able to buy them, she said.
“Working to get affordable housing into the community is something we’re working toward every day,” McDonald said.
Though Dayton lost population in the past 10 years, Dodge said that might be changing with new apartments, downtown restaurants and the reopening of the Dayton Arcade.
“Downtown Dayton we’re just seeing great rebirth there,” she said.
One city saw big growth — Huber Heights added 5,338 residents. Its 14% gain was the largest in Montgomery County.
Scott Falkowski, Huber Heights interim city manager, said a primary driver of the population increase was new home construction.
“Over the past 10 years, we have seen a lot of growth in the residential market at the north end of the city,” he said.
The city issued more than 200 new home permits both in 2019 and 2020 and, as of Aug. 1, already had 210 this year. Newer developments include Artisan Walk, Carriage Trails, Lexington Place, Silver Oaks of Huber Heights and Windbrooke. New apartment buildings also brought new residents, Falkowski said.
“We’re expecting that 10 years from now, that number is going to keep increasing,” he said.
Jobs at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and at area logistics centers, along with the city’s investments in amenities like the Rose Music Center at the Heights, have been key to drawing people to the community, Falkowski said.
“Huber Heights is a great city,” he said.
Growing faster than Montgomery, Greene and Miami counties, Warren County grew by almost 30,000 residents, a nearly 14% increase, in the past decade.
Deputy Warren County Administrator Martin Russell attributed the county’s growth to sound policies by local governments that have attracted not only residential, but continued business growth.
“We have high quality schools, good government, low taxes and that’s created an environment that people have responded to,” Russell said. “I think we will likely see continued growth.”
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