Brad Dicken, Elizabeth Dobbins and David Knox | The Chronicle-Telegram
Cuyahoga County is bleeding population, even as most of the counties ringing it, including Lorain and Medina counties, experience growth, according to data made public this week by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The bureau reports that Cuyahoga County’s population has dropped by 24,188 residents since 2010, leaving the state’s most-populous county with 1,255,921 people as of July 1, 2015. It’s a drop of 1.9 percent and puts Cuyahoga County in danger of being surpassed in size by Franklin County, which is the home of Columbus.
Meanwhile, Medina County grew by 4,062 residents between 2010 and 2015 for a total of 176,395 residents last year, an increase of 2.4 percent. Medina County is the 16th-largest county in the state, while Lorain County, which experienced slower population growth at 1.3 percent , is the ninth-largest county in Ohio.
Mark Salling, a demographer who runs the Northern Ohio Data and Information Service and teaches at Cleveland State University, said that Medina County is picking up some of the losses from its northern neighbor.
Lorain County added 3,791 residents between 2010 and 2015, for a total of 305,147 residents last year.
Lorain County Administrator Jim Cordes said there has been a lot of growth on the eastern side of the county bordering Cuyahoga, especially in North Ridgeville and Columbia Township, but he thought the percentage of growth would have been higher.
“It’s a little slower than I would have thought,” he said.
North Ridgeville Mayor Dave Gillock said he expects that growth will continue in his city, which is averaging roughly 200 new homes being built each year. He said people moving to the suburbs are finding places like Bay Village and Westlake largely built out, but there is open space further west.
North Ridgeville with its easy access to highways, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport and other amenities coupled with its still-somewhat-rural atmosphere makes the town an attractive place for people to move to, Gillock said, and he expects that to continue on for at least another decade.
Statewide, the population grew by 0.7 percent last year, according to the Census Bureau.
Ohio is one of the nation’s slowest-growing states. As of July 1, 2015, its population is estimated at 11,613,423 — only 76,698 more than found in the 2010 Census.
Ohio’s growth rate in those five years ranks it 43rd among the 50 states, ahead of Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, Illinois, Maine, Vermont and West Virginia.
Salling said he wouldn’t have been surprised if Ohio had actually seen its population decline. He said the state has an aging population and isn’t bringing in new industry at the rate of the states in the southwestern United States.
“Even though we’ve seen some job growth, it’s not as fast as out West,” Salling said.
Another major factor in the decline in population in many counties and Ohio’s slow growth is the number of residents leaving the state. The census data show that since 2010, 153,296 residents moved out of Ohio — more than the population of Dayton. During that same five years, births in Ohio exceeded deaths by only 142,046. That means Ohio’s overall increase of 76,698 since 2010 is entirely attributable to immigration from other nations.
That also appeared to be a factor on a local level. In Lorain County, there was a domestic loss of residents of 1,378, but those residents were replaced by 2,303 international migrants.
Cordes said some of that loss comes from millennials, who seem to prefer more urban areas and are moving accordingly.
In Medina County, there were 1,234 new domestic migrants and 578 international migrants, according to the bureau.
Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., said that part of the reason Medina County has fared better than some other places comes from a population that has been growing since the 1990s and includes people with higher incomes. Those factors allowed the county to weather the Great Recession better than some of its neighbors.
“It reflects the continued confidence in Medina County as a desirable place to live,” Dentler said.