Column: A micropolitan area that's on the riseWORTHINGTON — You feeling pressure? That’s because we’re growing. Not a lot. The figure is .09 percent from the time the 2010 census was taken until last Dec. 31.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — You feeling pressure?
That’s because we’re growing.
Not a lot. The figure is .09 percent from the time the 2010 census was taken until last Dec. 31. The population of the Worthington micropolitan area is 21,397 as of last New Year’s Day.
We’ve talked about this before. America’s micropolitan areas, or micropolitan statistical areas. They have become more important. The U.S. Census Bureau has identified 576 micropolitan areas in the United States. Worthington — Nobles County — is one of them. This is not just a census tag. It is made more official because it has been picked up by the U.S. Bureau of Management and Budget. The U.S. does not deal only with Worthington any longer. It concerns itself with the entire Worthington micropolitan area (WMA). Worthington, Adrian, Ellsworth — all 16 communities in Nobles County are wrapped in one bundle.
So, what is WMA?
Well, as noted, there are 576 micro areas in the U.S., and Worthington is No. 544. Very near the bottom. But — the micro areas all through this far reach of the nation have rather thin populations. The Worthington micro area is more populous than the Jamestown, N.D., micro area (No. 548), Spirit Lake micro area (No. 564), the Huron, SD., micro area (No. 562), and the Storm Lake micro area (No. 555).
What is more, Worthington earned attention because it is growing. Minnesota has 16 micro areas, Worthington to Bemidji to Brainerd to Winona. Three of the Minnesota micros have lost population since the last census — Fairmont, New Ulm, Albert Lea.
Maybe more interesting in these times, which the national news media still identify as economic hard times, is that the Worthington micro is gaining jobs. In the year 2000, the Worthington micro was credited with 11,000 jobs. That figure had climbed to 12,250 in 2010. It fell slightly but remained above 12,000 in 2011. While some of America talks of hard times, our micro has basked in a growing economy. Population, men, women and kids, 21397; jobs 12,000. Not shabby.
Worthington gets more interesting in the U.S. Census analysis, which was released in September. We are talking now about both America’s metro areas and America’s micro areas. The focus here is on the largest increase and decrease in “non-hispanic white share of the population.” Worthington, Minn., had the largest decrease in white populations (2000-2010) by percentage of any part of the nation — 16.64 percent. About 3,000 white folks died or went off to college or retired to Arizona or Florida. Wherever. The third largest decrease by percentage was at Storm Lake, Iowa.
But they said Worthington grew, they said Worthington is growing even now. Yes! The white folks left and Worthington today would be smaller than Worthington of 1990, except that people moved to our micro area from Vietnam, Laos, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras — from all over the world. Worthington today would be counted with Fairmont or New Ulm or Albert Lea, recording population losses, but for the fact that minorities filled the big gap.
The Worthington micro area’s white population tumbled from 83 percent of the total to 67 percent of the total. But the total population, despite the loss of 3,000 whites, grew by 600 above what it had been. In a point of fact, the Worthington micropolitan area ranks No. 5 among the 576 U.S. micropolitan areas in the largest (percentage) increase of Hispanic residents. It is just behind Liberal and Dodge City, Kan., Guyman, Okla, and Hobbs, N.M. The Worthington micro is earning ongoing national attention.
Most of the Upper Midwest micros are experiencing notable populations changes. Unexpected diversity. But not all. The Spirit Lake micropolitan area and the Alexandria micropolitan area both continue with white populations above 97 percent — Spirit Lake and Alex rank among America’s five most-white communities. This is seen as a problem in our new age. Alexandria is encouraging diversity. It created a special committee after it was determined non-Caucasian medical and engineering professionals shun the community. Professionals feel they have no place there.
The Worthington micropolitan area. A very interesting place that stands out among the populations of U.S. micropolitan areas. It is rated a “significant center of population and production drawing workers and shoppers from a wide local area.” An exciting place to live.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.