Friday, October 19, 2018

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Census: Altoona, Eau Claire register healthy growth among state cities

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    Eau Claire’s population, which reached an estimated 68,587 in 2017, grew at a faster rate than the state last year and in the first seven years of this decade, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. New housing downtown has helped accommodate that growth. View more photos at

    Staff photo by Dan Reiland
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    Continued construction at River Prairie development, as seen in this March 29, 2017, photo, has helped Altoona become one of the state’s fastest-growing cities, city Administrator Mike Golat said.

    Staff file photo

Altoona continued its run of being one of Wisconsin’s fastest growing cities in 2017.

After adding 176 residents from 2016 to 2017, Altoona had an estimated 7,680 residents as of July 1 last year, according to new population estimates released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau. That 2.4 percent growth rate ranked No. 7 among Wisconsin cities and topped all cities in west-central Wisconsin.

“Obviously we’re really happy about the growth in Altoona,” said city Administrator Mike Golat, attributing the trend to available land at the right time, easy access from major highways, thoughtful planning and the community’s investment in education and quality of life.

The booming River Prairie development, with its mix of parks, housing and commercial development in a scenic spot along the Eau Claire River, is perhaps the city’s signature example of investing in quality of place, Golat said. He pointed out that recent investments in parks and other quality of life amenities has made the entire Chippewa Valley a more attractive place for people to live. 

Just west of Altoona, Eau Claire also recorded solid growth, adding 361 residents from 2016 to 2017 to hit an estimated total population of 68,587. That 0.5 percent growth rate exceeded the statewide rate of 0.4 percent, the census report shows.

The other fastest-growing regional cities last year were: New Richmond, No. 11 in the state with growth of 1.4 percent; River Falls, No. 16 at 1.1 percent; and Hudson, No. 19 at 1.05 percent.

Menomonie’s population grew 0.9 percent to hit 16,429 in 2017, while Chippewa Falls increased by 0.4 percent to 14,035.

Altoona’s strong growth stood out even more when looking at the seven-year period since the 2010 census.  

The city gained nearly 1,000 residents en route to 14.5 percent population growth from 2010 to 2017, ranking No. 3 among Wisconsin cities. 

Only Madison area cities Verona and Fitchburg have experienced faster growth so far this decade, according to the census data.

“We’ve been on a roll for a while,” Golat said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going.”

The effort now is focused on careful planning in an attempt to sustain the growth, which will have to go south and east, he said.

In the period from 2010 to 2017, Eau Claire added about 2,700 residents to increase its population by 4.1 percent, which ranked 26th among Wisconsin cities. The overall state population has grown 1.9 percent so far this decade.

Other fast-growing regional cities this decade were: Hudson, No. 10 in the state with growth of 7.8 percent; New Richmond, No. 13 at 7.1 percent; Galesville, No. 14 at 6.5 percent; and Arcadia, No. 25 at 4.3 percent.

Chippewa Falls posted growth of 2.7 percent from 2010 to 2017, while Menomonie’s population increased by 1 percent during the same period.

At the other end of the spectrum, the census numbers indicate Alma had the highest rate of population loss among all Wisconsin cities so far this decade. Alma lost 66 residents for an 8.4 percent decline in population. Ladysmith’s 7.6 percent drop ranked No. 4 in the state, and Durand’s5.7 percent dip ranked ninth.

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