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City staff report concludes that Worthington is a growing community

WORTHINGTON -- The existence of local housing, commercial and industrial projects are closely related to population increases in the area, according to a report released earlier this month by Worthington city staff.

"I think it shows that we're a growing community," explained Brad Chapulis, director of community and economic development. "With growth comes some of the amenities that some of the other communities may not have. On the business side, it shows we have a growing population and growing workforce."

The report is compiled from data from the 2000 Census, the city of Worthington Community Development Department, the annual state demographer estimates and annual U.S. Census estimates. It is used in state and federal grant applications and used to determine the city's bond rating.

Among the report's key findings is a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of building permits issued last year. In 2009, there were 642 total permits issued, up from 587 in 2008 and 638 in 2007.

During the five-year period examined, only one year saw a decrease in the total valuation of new construction work, which tends to hover around $13 to $15 million per year.

"We're seeing a nominal increase each year, with the exception of 2007, when we had a blip when the economy hit us a little bit," Chapulis explained.

A total construction value of about $14.2 million in 2006 dropped to roughly $7.7 million in '07. That number doubled to $15.3 million in 2008, finally peaking last year at $21.5 million in new construction valuation -- a 40 percent increase from 2008.

Chapulis said the jump can be partially attributed to several one-time building projects that came to fruition in 2009: The Worthington Area YMCA, Fareway Economical Food Store and the addition to the Meadows, to name a few.

"We're a strong regional hub that is being selected for many commercial and industrial activities," he said, adding Worthington is one of few communities in southwest Minnesota showing population growth. "We're steadily growing; a 4.5 percent increase is nothing to sneeze at."

According to the data, Worthington had 1 percent population growth in 2009, and 4.5 percent growth during that past decade. The population estimate for 2010 is 11,796, up about 500 people from the 2000 Census.

Chapulis hopes the 2010 Census will give a clearer picture of the city's population and says he's confident it "will be greater than the number we have estimated."

The report shows a 94.3 percent occupancy rate in existing housing; a number Chapulis said is conservative.

"We don't have any concrete data in regards to occupancy rate; and the number of persons per household (data) comes from the 2000 Census. It's probably closer to 97 percent, but we don't have any data to back that up."

Chapulis said his staff believes the number of persons per household, now listed at 2.61, is going to be more than state and federal averages.

The shortage of housing in the community is well known, but there has been some new growth in the housing sector. The net number of housing units has increased; and the 30-unit Newcastle townhomes and 24-unit Okabena Estates projects are in the works this year.

"If we didn't have population growth, we wouldn't have anybody interested (in building housing)," Chapulis said.