MOSES LAKE - Good news for growth in the area, as Grant County is estimated to pass the 100,000 population mark within in the next few years.
The county is expected to reach 100,744 residents in 2018, according to figures from the state Office of Financial Management. According to the 2010 Census, 89,120 people resided in Grant County.
Grant County will have more than 95,000 residents by 2015 and population will continue to increase each year to get to the 100,000 benchmark by 2018.
About 7,256,000 people overall will reside in Washington state by 2018, according to OFM figures.
While the Office of Financial Management offers population forecasts for the entire state, another group uses historical data to help Grant County plan for that future growth.
Eastern Washington University's Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis received a federal grant a few years back and worked with the Grant County Economic Development Council, the Columbia Basin Foundation, the Moses Lake Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia Basin Herald and the Grant County Health District to create the Grant County Trends web page.
Patrick Jones, executive director of EWU's Institute for Public Policy said the site launched about two years ago, and provides data on population, education, economic vitality, health and public safety in Grant County among other indicators.
Jones said figures on the site are updated as soon as information from the sponsoring agencies come in.
"It's a living web site, and we update it as quickly as data is released," said Jones.
Jones said Grant County was a good place to begin looking at historical data.
"We looked for rural counties, and approached Grant County because it is a rapidly changing county," he said. "And there was no information like this to help people."
Jones said data from the Grant County Trends site can be used to plan for the projected growth in Grant County. Looking at the county's annual growth rate for example can help policy makers in the area anticipate what services will be needed in the future, he said.
High rates of growth can bring economic benefits to a community, but can also lead to concerns over the environment, traffic and access to services like education. However, too slow of a growth rate can mean a community faces fiscal challenges and population loss, according to the Grant County Trends page.
Grant County's estimated mid-year population in 2012 was 91,000. Since the 1980's, the population has grown by more than 42,000 people, according to Grant County Trends data. The county's annual growth rates has ranged from 0 percent in 1981 to a high of 5 percent in 1995 and ended at 1 percent this year.
Grant County's growth rates remained slightly above the state's growth rates as well as the nation's growth rates for most of that period, based on information from Grant County Trends. In 2012, Washington state and the nation both had an annual growth rate of 0.7 percent.
Jones said another useful indicator to look at to plan for future growth is a communities' median age. Median age predicts the anticipated costs and required levels of services like housing, healthcare and public education, according to the Grant County Trends site.
"What I find is that Grant County is a very young county." said Jones. "The county is about five years younger than the nation and the state, and that's a big difference."
In 2011, the median age of the county was 32.4 years of age. The state's median age is about 37.5.
The national median age in 2010 was 37.2.
Businesses can use that information as well, in order to cater their goods to specific target markets, said Jones.
Jones said that while the county has a younger population, the number of people in their prime working years of 35-64 is pretty low compared to other counties in the state.
"There is a much higher share of kids and a much lower share of people between 35-64," he said. "If the county needs immediate workers, they may need to import some of it."
Jones said that is already evident, since people from Douglas and Chelan counties frequently commute to Quincy for work.
Since the county has a high share of young people, Jones said the community can plan for their anticipated needs in the next few years.
"You will have a large group of kids coming up right now who will need schooling, training and hopefully post-secondary education that will equip them for the jobs that will come in the next few years," said Jones.
Jones said that the data also showed signs of economic improvement in the county. Per capita personal income in the county has risen, he said.
"It's nice to see that Grant County has sort of come back in the last three years, and it's ahead of the peak that it reached in 2008," he said.
Retail sales also rebounded in 2011, said Jones.
"That's something that the county can take some pride in," he said.