Local leaders expressed optimism Tuesday, as U.S. Census numbers showed double-digit percentage growth over the last decade throughout eastern New Mexico.
Clovis saw the biggest increase with 15.6 percent growth — a counted population of 37,775. That’s up from the 2000 census total of 32,667.
“I could not be more thrilled,” said Clovis Mayor Gayla Brumfield. “What I was hoping when we started the process was that we would be at 38,000. We’re right around it.
“With growth like that, it would help (persuade) retailers looking at us, or (help us) with grants.”
Brumfield said the members of the city’s census committee, made up of citizens and city employees, deserved credit for outreach efforts that included rallies.
The Portales population, meanwhile, jumped 10.3 percent from 11,131 to 12,280.
“It was a little above what I expected,” Mayor Sharon King said, “so I’m excited to hear it.”
King and Roosevelt County Development Corporation Executive Director Greg Fisher attribute the growth partially to Eastern New Mexico’s record enrollment, but mostly to population increases at Cannon Air Force Base. Cannon operated a fighter wing in 2000 and is now transitioning into a Air Force Special Operations Command base.
“It’s definitely positive and in line with what we’re seeing now,” Fisher said. “We’re definitely seeing 2 percent growth a year, plus. Cannon is really the engine, along with ENMU. I think a lot of that growth is over the last five years.”
The base’s census population actually dropped, from 2,557 to 2,245. Clovis Industrial Development Corporation Executive Director Chase Gentry said personnel moved more into the communities.
“I would assume a majority of (the growth) would be Cannon,” Gentry said. “I think with the industries we brought in there have been a number of people working with Southwest Cheese. But with the Cannon growth, plus the ancillary businesses to serve them, that accounts for most of it.
“When Special Ops came in, they closed a lot of housing units and never reopened them. A lot of those numbers will be showing up in town.”
The growths also pushed the microplex — a combined population count from Clovis and Portales intended to attract businesses — just past the 50,000 mark.
“If we’re going to continue to see those growth rates, we’ll be to 20,000 in the county in no time at all,” Fisher said. “We might be there already. We’re microplexing in some ways, but we are two separate markets.”
Roosevelt County was counted at 19,846 (up 10.1 percent), while Curry County had 48,376 residents (up 8.2 percent).
The growth is in line with the state average, which made a 13.2 percent jump (from 1,819,046 to 2,059,179). The largest spikes were seen in Rio Rancho (69.1 percent), Las Cruces (31.4 percent) and Albuquerque (21.7 percent).
“It will open us up for more retailers to look at us. Other than some urban areas, we’re one of the few areas that showed such growth.”
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