CANTON — Despite the downturn in migration to the metro Atlanta area following the Great Recession, the latest population estimates indicate that Cherokee County is still gaining residents.
According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, about 41,000 new residents poured into the 10-county, metro-Atlanta area between 2012 to 2013, and 2,500 of those made their way to Cherokee County.
Although, the uptick from 220,800 to 223,300 amounts to only a 1.13 percent change in the county’s residency numbers and is a slower growth rate from that experienced in the 2000s, officials say it’s a sign that Cherokee is holding to its position as a destination for those looking to make north Georgia home.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens said Monday the latest estimates show Cherokee as a county still “ahead of the curve.”
“I am delighted that the 2013 numbers are holding,” Ahrens said. “Cherokee is a desirable community to locate a business, expand a business and to move your family.”
Since the “2007 crash,” Ahrens said Cherokee County has consistently held its ground and maintained a growth rate “always in excess of 1 percent” annually.
That rate, however, hasn’t remained as strong as it did in more economically booming times, according to the ARC.
But Mike Alexander, manager of ARC’s research and analytics division says Cherokee County is not alone in having to sometimes accept slower growth in recent years.
“People just don’t move as much when the economy is slow,” Alexander said in a news release from ARC. “And, considering that this recession severely impacted the housing industry, forcing property values down, fewer people are able to sell their homes and move to different metro areas, even if jobs are available there.”
Cherokee County’s 2012-13 population increase of 1.13 percent puts it just behind Cobb County and ahead of the city of Atlanta and Fulton County in rate of growth. The rate also pushes Cherokee ahead of metro Atlanta as a whole, which grew at a rate of about .96 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to ARC data.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said Tuesday the numbers are promising but not surprising.
“Cherokee County is about the best place in the world to live,” Johnston said. “And we haven’t kept that secret very well.”
Among other benefits, Johnston said the county features a pleasant climate, location and “excellent public safety, schools (and) recreation” that keep out-of-towners making the choice to call Cherokee home.
Cherokee County also has “one of the lowest tax burdens of any county in Georgia,” Johnston added.
Although the numbers are encouraging, Ahrens said they are significant in other ways.
“While they are global Cherokee and not broken down by municipal jurisdiction, there is an implication related to increased service costs,” he said. “Many residents challenge the Board of Commissioners to reduce our taxes. And I accept that.”
But Ahrens said with both population and inflation on the rise, the county has a “huge strain” put on its ability to deliver services without increasing costs.