Ohio appears to have stemmed the tide of people leaving for opportunities elsewhere, as the state had the largest net migration and smallest domestic migration loss in more than seven years, according to newly released U.S. Census population estimates.
The data show Ohio gained a net of 36,055 people from July 1, 2016, to July 1, 2017, the period for which the Census conducts its annual estimates.
In past years, gains in local population have been mostly attributable to more people being born than dying, and to immigrants moving to the state. Domestic migration — people moving within the U.S. — has mostly flowed out of the state. Warren County, meanwhile, was the only local county to gain population through domestic migration during those years.
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But this past year was a different story. The region gained more than 1,700 people from other states or other parts of Ohio, and Butler, Warren, Preble, Clark, Champaign, Greene and Miami counties all saw domestic gains — some for the first time in a decade.
"There's a lot being done around economic development, making it more attractive for employers to come here and settle," said Cassie Barlow, chief operating officer at the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education (SOCHE). "I also think our colleges and universities are doing a really good job of reaching out to all different populations to invite them into the region to attend our universities."
There are five colleges or universities in Butler County: Miami University in Oxford, Miami University Regionals in Hamilton, Middletown and West Chester and Cincinnati State in Middletown.
Dan Bates, president of the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, said economic growth is important because it creates tax base and provides employers to the expanding business community.
“Growth breeds growth,” Bates said. “That engagement takes each community to the next level.”
Increased population also shows that people are enjoying their time in the county, not just visiting, he said.
Growth in the county, said Rick Pearce, president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, illustrates that the community is “attractive, vibrant and expanding.”
Those individuals, in turn, invest in the county and “sell the opportunity” to their business network and colleagues, Pearce said.
Warren County saw the greatest domestic migration increase in the last year with about 1,300 people moving into the county from other parts of the state or country. That’s up from fewer than 300 people moving into Warren County from 2010 to 2011. It was also once again the area’s fastest growing county with an annual increase of about 2,400 people or 1.1 percent growth.
Warren County was the fourth fastest growing in the state in the past year.
Since 2010 Warren County has grown by 7.5 percent, Butler County by 3.4 percent, while Preble County shrunk by 2.7 percent. During the same time, Ohio grew by 1.1 percent.