Chattanooga area shows steady population growth

An aerial view of Chattanooga is seen in this file photo.
An aerial view of Chattanooga is seen in this file photo.

The Chattanooga and Cleveland metro areas posted population growth beating the national rate in the past year as the region sees steady if unspectacular gains, new U.S. Census data show.

"To me that's promising. We're seeing steady growth," said Bridgett Massengill, CEO of the Thrive Regional Partnership. "That's exactly the quality of life we want to preserve in this region."

Population uptick

Most counties in the tri-state area put up population gains from 2016 to 2017. Below are the counties’ 2017 population and the percent change from the previous year:GEORGIA› Catoosa: 66,550, up 0.4 percent› Chattooga: 24,770, down 0.2 percent› Dade: 16,285, up 0.2 percent› Gordon: 57,089, up 0.1 percent› Murray: 39,782, up 1 percent› Walker: 68,939, up 0.8 percent› Whitfield: 104,658, down 0.03 percentTENNESSEE› Bledsoe: 14,717, up 0.8 percent› Bradley: 105,560, up 1.1 percent› Coffee: 55,034, up 1.1 percent› Franklin: 41,652, up 0.2 percent› Grundy: 13,361, up 0.6 percent› Hamilton: 361,613, up 0.9 percent› McMinn: 52,877, up 0.4 percent› Marion: 28,425, up 0.3 percent› Meigs: 12,068, up 1 percent› Polk: 16,757, down 0.07 percent› Rhea: 32,691, up 0.9 percent› Sequatchie: 14,736, down 0.02ALABAMA› DeKalb: 71,617, up 0.5 percent› Jackson: 51,909, down 0.2 percentSource: U.S. Census Bureau

The Chattanooga metropolitan area, which includes Hamilton, Marion and Sequatchie counties in Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker in Georgia, recorded 0.8 percent population gain to 556,548 from 2016 to 2017, the census data show.

Since 2010, the Chattanooga metro's population has grown by 5.1 percent.

Cleveland's metro, which includes Bradley and Polk counties, fared even better in the past year. It grew 0.9 percent, estimates show.

The Dalton, Ga., metro, which includes Murray and Whitfield, was up 0.3 percent in the past year.

The United States population growth rate in the year was 0.7 percent, according to the Census Bureau estimates.

All of the counties in the Chattanooga and Cleveland metro areas put up gains in the year except Polk and Sequatchie counties, estimates show.

Hamilton County posted a gain of 3,552 people from 2016 to 2017, up almost 1 percent. Bradley County had a gain of 1,153 people, up 1.1 percent, in the same period.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said this week with the release of the city's new Innovation District plan that a few years ago there was a recognition the world is changing and "if we didn't change, we'd be left out."

"We have to invent and make stuff," he said. "It's an innovative world that brings manufacturing. People and places drive economies."

Also, earlier this week, Volkswagen announced it plans to assemble a third vehicle at the Chattanooga plant that now employs nearly 3,500 people.

Gary Farlow, the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce CEO, said growing economies draw people and vice versa.

Farlow said that Bradley's population growth consistently has been in the 1 percent range for a number of years.

Bradley is readying for more growth as a 250-acre industrial park off Interstate-75 prepares to open in the May to June time frame, he said.

"We're getting lookers," Farlow said.

In Tennessee, metropolitan Nashville had the fastest population growth rate last year at 1.8 percent, expanding the Nashville area population to 1.9 million people. Metro Knoxville was up 1.1 percent while the Memphis metro area was up 0.2 percent.

In Georgia, metro Atlanta was up 1.5 percent to 5.88 million people. But it was the Athens-Clarke County, Ga., metro which sported the biggest growth in Georgia at 1.9 percent.

Polk County, Tenn., Sequatchie County, Tenn., Chattooga County, Ga., Whitfield County, Ga., and Jackson County, Ala., recorded population drops in the tri-state region.

Massengill said she expects to see the general population trend for the region to continue upward.

"People are not leaving. They want to stay here," she said.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318.

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