OUR OPINION: Census reflects challenges for growth

An irony of census figures is reflected in Missouri’s inverse proportion of population growth and political representation.

Although the 2010 Census revealed Missouri’s population increased 7 percent, to nearly 6 million people, in the past decade, the state will lose a congressional seat.

Why?

Because Missouri’s population increase did not keep pace with the national increase of 9.7 percent, which — incidentally — was the lowest since the Great Depression.

The oxymoronic decreasing increase in population growth also reflects a continuing shift of population to the nation’s South and West.

The figures leave Missouri and many of its localities, including Jefferson City, facing a similar concern — specifically, how to address slowing, stagnate or decreasing growth.

That concern is a driving force behind the strategic plan that soon will be rolled out by the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce. Discussions during creation of that plan included initiatives to spur economic development, encourage downtown revitalization and attract and retain young professionals.

Promoting growth also is the conceptual impetus for a number of municipal efforts. Projects designed to enhance quality of life and, consequently, draw residents and visitors include: development of the MSP site, Adrian’s Island, a conference center, a bridge bicycle lane, greenway connections and others.

Missouri and its localities each must assess individual strengths, determine what makes them attractive and find cost-effective ways to maximize growth.

The census figures released last week are largely raw numbers. More specific demographic data is expected in coming weeks.

The challenge for government, business and community leaders will be how to interpret that data to realign existing priorities or create new ones.

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