Census shows drop in Adams population

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 10, 2001

AP and staff reports

Adams County lived up to expectations in the 2000 Census, losing just more than 1,000 people in the past 10 years. The numbers didn’t surprise Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith, who said any loss of population was probably tied to the economy.

&uot;I believe it’s going to be a result of not having good-paying jobs,&uot; said Smith, who campaigned last year on the need for more economic development in the area.

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But Smith said Natchez aldermen, Adams County supervisors and the Natchez-Adams County Economic Development Authority are working to attract new companies to the area.

&uot;We’re doing everything we can to give incentives and make it as attractive as we can to come here,&uot; Smith said.

Figures released this week show a slight decrease in residents of Adams County, with numbers falling from 35,356 in 1990 to 34,340 in 2000, a decrease of 2.87 percent.

Elsewhere in Mississippi, cities listed as big population gainers boast good schools and low crime rates, while cities beset by ills ranging from a stagnant economy to troubled schools lost people.

The disparity between the fastest and slowest growing cities is vast. The population of tiny Olive Branch, a suburb of Memphis, Tenn., surged by 490 percent since 1990, while the Mississippi Delta city of Greenville shrank by 8 percent.

The difference is clear for Olive Branch Mayor Sam Rikard: It’s all about the small-town atmosphere.

”We certainly don’t see the violent crimes you see in a big city and hopefully never will,” Rikard said Friday. ”People come here to take advantage of our public education systems. It’s one of the best in the state.”

Rikard said voters in 1998 approved a $30 million education bond that has spurred construction of new schools. In his four years in office, he said the size of the police department has about doubled.

Meanwhile, Greenville Mayor Paul Artman said plant closings and schools struggling with teacher shortages have helped put his city at the bottom of the growth list. ”It’s indicative of the Mississippi Delta and that’s regrettable,” Artman said. ”If anything, we have to work on quality of life issues and education.”

Artman said a Census undercount may be partly to blame for his city’s low numbers, but he knows people are leaving for other areas.

”I have serious doubts about the accuracy of the count,” Artman said. ”The methodology is questionable.”

The tale of the two cities is mirrored across the state.

Gulfport grew by 75 percent; Jackson is more than 6 percent smaller. Southaven is 61 percent bigger; Meridian is down 3 percent. Vicksburg is 26 percent bigger; Tupelo jumped by 11.5 percent.

Among the state’s 82 counties, DeSoto and Madison counties grew fastest. Both counties are located near population centers and both have seen a dramatic growth in job opportunities; Washington and Coahoma counties, both on the Mississippi River, had the slowest growth.

Growth on the coast has been linked to the arrival of casinos in 1992. Elsewhere, it’s the same: Better schools, low crime.

Statewide, growth over the past decade was about 10.5 percent. The nation grew by about 13 percent.

Gulfport Director of Urban Development Bill Hessell said the construction of 12 casinos on the Gulf Coast has brought up to 10,000 jobs to the area. And he said contributing to the growth is his city’s growth in banking and commerce.

”It’s just been a tremendous decade,” Hessell said.