Wells County’s growing - but not by much
Wells County is one of only 39 Indiana counties to have gained population in the past year, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The growth is not much, however. Wells is one of 18 counties that grew less than 0.3 percent in the past year. Figures list Wells County’s estimated population at 27,939 in 2015 and 27,949 in 2016 — a net gain of 12 people. The number does not technically compute above 0.0 percent in terms of growth.
Wells County’s largest growth during the past seven years was 95 people during 2014. The county lost 34 people from its population during 2012, the only year its population dropped since 2010.
Eight Indiana counties — LaGrange, Tippecanoe, Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Johnson, and Warrick — grew more than 1 percent, while 13 grew between 0.4 and 0.9 percent. Included in that latter group are nearby counties Adams, Allen, DeKalb, and Kosciusko, all of which are part of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership.
The only other county in northeast Indiana to gain population was Whitley, which — like Wells — is in the less than 0.3 percent growth tier.
As a background to the population numbers, the 11 counties of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership are involved in a Road to One Million effort. The goal of Road to One Million is to reach the 1 million population level in the 11 counties by at least 2031.
Chad Kline, Wells County’s economic development director, said that Wells County needs to have a 2.1 percent annual growth rate as its part of the Road to One Million effort.
Kline said the focus has to be on the “millenials” — those who are 18 to 24 years of age and figuring out their futures.
“We need to do a better job of retaining those people,” Kline said.
Breaking down Wells County’s population, the 18-to-24 age group is 2,222 people — 7.9 percent of the county’s residents. The largest group is the older adult (45-64) population at 7,738 (27.7 percent) followed by the young adult (25-44) population at 6,341 (22.7 percent).
Other age groups, according to the Hoosiers by the Numbers website, are 1,787 preschool, 0-4 years of age (6.4 percent); 4,999 school age, 5 to 17 years of age (17.9 percent; and 4,877 older, 65 years of age and older (17.4 percent).
The census numbers released Wednesday were analyzed by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.