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2010 Census: Bemidji tops 13,000 mark

Bemidji and most of the surrounding area is growing, according to figures released this week by the US. Census.

The city of Bemidji experienced a population growth of 12.7 percent, increasing from 11,917 in 2000 to 13,431 in 2010.

That is a steeper growth rate than that from a decade ago. Between 1990 and 2000, Bemidji's population increased almost 6 percent from 11,245 to 11,917.

John Chattin, the city manager, said growth is good for the city and the surrounding area, especially if that population growth is accompanied by additional housing units in the city.

"It, obviously, helps having an increase in tax capacity," he said.

The number of Bemidji housing units, according to the Census, increased from 4,948 in 2000 to 5,748 (although 409 were listed as vacant) in 2010.

As part of a band of counties north from the Twin Cities, Beltrami County had been expecting to see population growth. And, indeed, it did grow, from 39,650 in 2000 to 44,442 in 2010, a growth of 12.1 percent.

"I would say the population is higher than what we thought it might be," said Tony Murphy, county administrator. "The last couple of years, with the recessionary impacts, we've kind of seen a slowing of some of the new construction.

"The (Census) numbers are very positive."

The growth is a continuation of that experienced last decade. From 1990 to 2000, Beltrami County's population grew 15.3 percent, from 34,384 to 39,650.

The greater Bemidji area, as a whole, is experiencing more growth.

Bemidji Township's population grew from 2,934 to 3,134 (6.8 percent) and Northern Township's grew from 4,027 to 4,657 (15.6) percent.

Mel Milender, the planning administrator for the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, which covers the city of Bemidji and Bemidji and Northern townships, said growth was expected.

Milender said the JPB will begin the process next week to review the 2010 Census numbers, the growth projections made in 2005 and the numbers from the 2000 Census.

"To see whether or not the predictions were correct and to develop plans going into the next 10 years," he said.

Townships throughout Beltrami County mostly experienced growth.

Of the county's 42 organized townships, 32 grew in population.

Eckles Township, for one, grew by more than 46 percent as it went from 1,033 people in 2000 to 1,516 in 2010.

Grant Valley Township, too, grew by quite a bit, from 1,450 people to 2,029 for a population growth of 40 percent.

Other townships - such as Frohn, Ten Lake and Turtle Lake - experienced growth, but on a smaller scale.

Some area cities, such as Bagley, Blackduck and Park Rapids, experienced growth similar to that of Bemidji. Bagley grew by 12.7 percent, Blackduck by 12.8 and Park Rapids by 13.2.

Akeley and Nevis both grew, but kept their growth to 4.9 and 7.1 percent, respectively.

But not every area near Bemidji experienced growth.

Laporte, for instance, had a 23.4 percent decrease in growth, falling from a population of 145 in 2000 to 111 in 2010.

Other area cities, including Northome, Walker, Kelliher and Cass Lake, also experienced double-digit percentage decreases in growth, but their decreases were between 10 and 13 percent.

Townships, too, were not immune to decreases in growth. Of the 10 Beltrami County townships that did not grown in population, Kelliher Township declined by the largest number of residents as it dropped from a population of 150 to 130, a decrease of 13.4 percent.

Data from the Census will be used in a variety of ways, including for redistricting needs.

City of Bemidji and Beltrami County wards may be adjusted in response to the Census figures.

However, Murphy said, that process will not begin until the state goes through its redistricting process.