Posted: 1:00 a.m. Thursday, May 22, 2014

Springfield population continues to decline

Population drop is 10th worst in the country since 2010 census for cities larger than 50,000 people.


Springfield population continues to decline photo
Downtown Springfield as seen from the top of St. Raphael’s Church steeple. The city’s population is continuing to decline. Bill Lackey/Staff

By Michael Cooper

Staff Writer


The city of Springfield’s population decline is the 10th worst in the country since the 2010 census, according to new estimates released today.

The population here has dropped about 2.1 percent since 2010 when Springfield had 60,608 residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Of Ohio cities with 50,000 or more people, only Youngstown lost a greater percentage of residents with a 2.7 percent decrease since 2010.

The key to increasing the population in Springfield is bringing jobs back to Clark County, Mayor Warren Copeland said, but it’s not an easy fix.

“That’s the simple, but complicated answer,” Copeland said. “We need jobs and we’re doing everything we can to get that to happen.”

Springfield ranks 704th out of 714 cities with 50,000 or more residents for population change during that time period. Youngstown ranked 713th and only Detroit has seen greater losses, losing 3.5 percent of its population since 2010.

The city recently opened the Champion City Business Park at the former Navistar body plant on Lagonda Avenue, while the Prime Ohio II Corporate Park is expected to open later this summer. The parks could attract up to 1,300 to 1,500 jobs to Springfield, according to economic development officials.

Area officials are also working to lure new businesses downtown, said Copeland, also an urban studies professor at Wittenberg University.

“We do have indications of some expansions from already existing companies in town,” Copeland said. “That’s the key for Clark County, not just the city of Springfield.”

The likely reason for the loss of population is that older people are dying, Copeland said, while young people are leaving the city to get jobs in other areas.

“That’s sort of the natural attrition that occurs, but it’s not being replaced because a portion of the younger folks are moving other places for jobs,” Copeland said.

Cities across Ohio lost people in the past year. New Carlisle’s population dropped from an estimated 5,742 in 2012 to 5,732 in last year, according to the new figures.

Urbana fell from an estimated 11,696 residents in 2012 to 11,629 in last year.

Springfield’s population continued to decline slightly last year. The city’s population was estimated to be 59,357 as of July 1 last year, down from 59,413 in 2012.

Improvements in the Springfield City School District — including recent enrollment increases — also helps keep people in the city, Copeland said.

“Schools are often a reason people give for leaving a community,” Copeland said. “It’s another positive sign for the future.”

Springfield ranks 603 out of 745 incorporated areas nationally with 50,000 or more total residents.

The city has seen lots of improvements over the past four years, said Sarah Royal, a 20-year-old senior at Wittenberg University.

If a job opportunity is available in Ohio after graduation next year, she would be willing to stay in Springfield, said Royal, a native of Aliso Viejo, Calif. She’s majoring in English and hopes to find a job in publishing. She’s hoping to stay in Ohio with her fiance, a Cincinnati native.

“I really like (Springfield),” Royal said. “There are certain parts of town where I won’t go alone, but that’s every town. I think it’s an awesome little place.”

The city and university have combined for several strong service projects in both the Promise Neighborhood and the Rocking Horse Center, Royal said.

“They’re very good services,” Royal said.

While the rest of Ohio’s population is in decline, Columbus continues to get larger. The state capital is the 15th largest city in the United States with an estimated 822,533 residents, growing by about 4.3 percent since 2010. The city has added nearly 33,000 residents over the past four years.

Columbus has large job producers in several different areas including state government, university jobs and other growing industries, such as insurance. Other cities in the state are probably losing more people to Columbus than anywhere else, Copeland said.

“They’re the big magnet, especially for middle class jobs,” Copeland said.

Seven of the top-15 fastest-growing cities are in Texas, including the cities of San Marcos, with an 8 percent population increase, and Frisco, with a 6.5 percent increase.

Unmatched coverage

The Springfield News-Sun provides in-depth coverage of the city of Springfield, including recent stories on the city’s bike plan and local unemployment rates.

By the numbers

2.1 percent: Population loss in Springfield since the 2010 census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

704: Springfield’s ranking out of 714 cities nationwide with populations of 50,000 people or more for population change since 2010.

82,723: The amount of people who lived in Springfield in 1960.

59,537: The estimated amount of people who lived in Springfield as of July 1, 2013.


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