A century after Collegedale was founded and named as the home of Southern Junior College (now Southern Adventist University), the college town has emerged as the fastest-growing city in the Chattanooga region.
New population figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau showed that the population of Collegedale jumped by more than 34% from 2010 to 2020. Collegedale's growth was more than triple the statewide growth of Tennessee and the growth rate for Hamilton County as a whole over the past decade.
"We've tried to build a family-friendly community where people want to live, and in the past decade, we saw a tremendous amount of new development," said Collegedale Mayor Katie Lamb, who has been the city's mayor for the past seven years. "We are seeing both single-family and apartment additions. There are some people who like Collegedale as a smaller town and want to keep it that way, but I think others are glad to see this growth if we can manage it and build a better community."
Collegedale, which was incorporated as a city in 1968 and has benefited by the growth eastward in Hamilton County into Ooltewah and other areas, is among the wealthier suburban cities in Hamilton County where the population gains were the biggest from 2010 to 2020, census data show.
Signal Mountain, Ridgeside and Lookout Mountain also outpaced the growth rate in the city of Chattanooga, where nearly half of all Hamilton County residents live. Population growth was slowest in the oldest, less wealthy and more landlocked suburban cities such as Red Bank and East Ridge.
But all 12 municipalities in Hamilton County grew, as did most of the counties of Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama over the past decade.
The census bureau reported that four area counties lost population — the rural counties of Dade and Chattooga in Georgia, along with Grundy County in Tennessee. Walker County in Georgia, which is part of the Chattanooga metropolitan statistical area, also had a drop in population over the past decade.
"In general, we're seeing faster growth rates in urban and metro areas than in many rural parts of the state," said Tim Kuhn, director of the Tennessee State Data Center at the Boyd Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Tennessee.
Population growth of Hamilton County’s municipalities
Among the 12 municipalities in Hamilton County, the fastest growing cities, and their 2020 population census, are:
Collegedale — 11,109, up 34.1%
Signal Mountain — 8,852, up 17.2%
Ridgeside — 446, up 14.4%
Lookout Mountain — 2,058, up 12.3%
Chattanooga — 181,099, up 8%
East Ridge — 22,167, up 5.7%
Walden — 1,981, up 4.4%
Soddy-Daisy — 13,070, up 2.8%
Red Bank — 11,899, up 2.1%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census
Chattanooga remained Tennessee's fourth biggest city, but Chattanooga grew the second-fastest among the top cities, behind only Nashville. Chattanooga reached 181,099 people.
Nashville grew to 689,447 residents and remained Tennessee's biggest city.
Memphis, which had 633,104 residents in the 2020 census, reported a 2.1% drop from 2010 to 2020. Knoxville grew by 6.6%, just below Chattanooga's 8% growth pace. Knoxville's 190,740 population total was 9,641 residents higher than the 2020 population of Chattanooga.
Contact Dave Flessner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6340.
How counties grew in the Chattanooga region
Among the 22 counties in the Chattanooga region, the population over the past decade grew faster than national average in most of Southeast Tennessee but tended to fall below the U.S. average in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama. The population shrank in four counties from 2010 to 2020. The area counties, and their 2020 population census, in order of their growth rates from 2010 to 2020 are:
Bledsoe — 14,913, up 15.8%
Marion — 25,216, up 13.3%
Sequatchie — 15,826, u 12.1%
Van Buren — 6,168, up 11.2%
Bradley — 108,620, up 9.8%
Coffee — 57,889, up 9.6%
Cumberland — 61,145, up 9.1%
Hamilton — 366,207, up 8.8%
Meigs — 12,758, up 8.5%
Catoosa, Georgia — 67,872, up 6.1%
Polk — 17,544, up 4.3%
Gordon, Georgia — 57,544, up 4.3%
Franklin — 42,774, up 4.2%
Rhea — 32,87, up 3.3%
McMinn — 52,266, up 1.9%
Jackson, Alabama — 52,579, up 1.2%
Dekalb, Alabama — 71,608, up 0.7%
Whitfield, Georgia — 102,864, up 0.3%
Grundy — 13,529, down 1.3%
Walker Georgia — 67,652, down 1.6%
Dade, Georgia — 16,251, down 2.3%
Chattooga, Georgia — 24,965, down 4%
Source: U.S. Bureau of Census. The U.S. population as a whole grew 7.6% from 2010 to 2020, while Tennessee grew 8.9%, Georgia grew 10.6% and Alabama grew 5.1%.