Adams County population continues decline

Published 1:08 am Sunday, April 23, 2017


NATCHEZ — The population of Adams County continues to slowly decline, new estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate.

The population estimate for Adams County as of July 1, 2016 is 31,248 down slightly from the 2015 estimate of 31,292.

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The census bureau conducts an official population count for the country every 10 years. Every year between those decade counts, the bureau releases a population estimate based on current data on births, deaths and migration. Population estimates released at the end of March were for counties and metropolitan areas.

Historical data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows a steady population decline for Adams County since the 1980 census, which peaked at 38,035 residents. Since then, the county has lost more than 6,700 people — approximately 17 percent of its population.

Since 2010, estimates show the county has lost approximately 1,000 people, down approximately 3 percent.

The numbers are disheartening, Adams County Board of Supervisors President Mike Lazarus said.

“We just have to get some jobs,” Lazarus said. “We have had some successes recently, but they have been few and far between.”

The most recent estimates put the county’s population below 1950 levels, when the city experienced one of it biggest growth spurts. Between 1940 and 1960, when major manufacturing industries flourished in Natchez, the county population rose by 10,490 residents.

After 2000, many of the industries that helped fuel the county’s growth closed. Titan Tire, the former Armstrong Tire and Rubber plant, closed in 2001. Johns Manville closed in 2002. International Paper closed in 2003.

Natchez Inc Executive Director Chandler Russ, who leads the area’s economic development efforts, said while the decline in population is not surprising, the trend underscores how important it is to bring jobs to the community.

“Jobs bring more people, bring more expendable income and bring more dollars to the economy,” Russ said. “We have to definitely figure out how to put a finger in the dike of the continued population loss that plagues our community.”

Russ said Adams County is not alone.

“Rural populations across the country are losing populations,” Russ said. “They have been seeing a decline for the last 15 to 20 years.”

The most recent estimates shows a decline in population in all of the counties surrounding Adams County.

With 7,297 residents, Jefferson County lost 5 percent of its population since 2010. Estimates for 2016 show Franklin County with 7,782 people, down 4 percent from 2010. Wilkinson County’s population of 9,047 is down 8 percent from 2010.

Comparatively, Adams County’s population is down 3 percent from the 2010 census.

The 2016 estimate also shows Concordia Parish lost 4 percent of its population since 2010. The parish is estimated to have 19,920 people.

One encouraging sign, Russ said, is that the current numbers suggest that the rate of population loss has flattened some.

“The losses are not as rapid as the first half of the (current) decade,” he said.

If the oil and gas industry had remained strong in 2016, Russ said he believes the population estimates might have been different.

“We might have had zero loss or a slight gain if we would have had the same numbers (in the oil and gas sector) that we saw in 2013 and 2104,” Russ said.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he knew many people who left to find jobs in other areas of the country specifically because of the drop in oil prices.

Grennell said he and other leaders continue to look at various ways to attract people and businesses to the area.

He said some suggestions include creating a business incubator to help businesses get off of the ground. Such an incubator could help attract younger entrepreneurs who may need assistance getting started.

Other ideas include attracting retirees to the area.

“In theory we should be attracting more retirees than we currently are,”  he said.

Grennell, Lazarus and Russ all agreed that finding a solution to the area’s population decline would not be easy.

“There is no magic wand,” Grennell said. “We just have to continue to work at it. It is going to take everybody working together.”

Working together includes getting help from all residents to keep the community attractive to businesses to the area, Grennell said.

“We need to take pride in our community,” he said. “Keeping the community clean and showing hospitality can be one of the biggest selling points to attracting business.”

“It shows quality of life and can be a magnet,” Grennell said.