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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Two Utah counties are among the 50 fastest growing in the country so far this decade, according to updated U.S. Census data released Thursday.
From 2000-2004, Washington County ranked as the 36th fastest growing, rising 20.5 percent from 91,235 residents to 109,924 -- while Tooele County was 46th on the list, jumping 19.2 percent from 41,680 to 49,688.
"Our growth rate has been high. But it's been fairly consistent since about 1994," said Nicole Cline, planning and economic development director for Tooele County.
Wasatch County was the only other in the state to crack the top 100, rising from 15,435 to 18,139 in population for a 17.5 percent jump. In contrast, Salt Lake County -- the Beehive State's largest population center -- saw a 3.8 percent bump, from 900,651 to 935,295 residents.
The new figures account for estimated changes in things like birth rates, deaths and migration intended to supplement information from the 2000 Census.
The Census Bureau provides three sets of population figures for 2000, making comparisons vary slightly. One set is based upon the 2000 Census, a painstaking headcount of every person in the nation. Another adjusts Census figures to account for undercounted population. A third set estimates the 2000 population by using various records, including birth certificates, death records and tax returns (The AP used the latter as the basis for comparison, since it was the methodology used to arrive at the 2004 estimates, as well).
Figures on the U.S. Census Web site arrive at slightly different rankings for the counties -- ranking Tooele County 33rd, while Washington came in at 37th and Wasatch registered 53rd.
Under the AP analysis, Virginia's Loudoun County led the nation over that period, booming 37.5 percent from 173,961 to 239,156 residents.
Utah's biggest population increases are coming in its smaller areas. But that's not always a good thing.
Cline said Tooele's expansion comes mostly from workers who commute to the Salt Lake valley, depriving their own county of the economic benefit that could come from a burgeoning resident base.
"We wouldn't mind seeing that reverse," she said, citing economic incentives intended to lure new businesses and industries to Tooele instead of Salt Lake County.
"How big is reasonable, to keep your quality of life and small-town atmosphere?" Cline said. "Everybody's concerned about that. Also, ensuring commercial and industrial base is keeping up with population."
Cline said a good sign was the county's ability to land a Wal-Mart distribution center, which was expected to create 600 to 1200 jobs.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)