Mount Vernon, Ohio

The sun rises over Mount Vernon, Ohio on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021.

MOUNT VERNON -- Most of Ohio's counties shrunk in population over the last decade, according to data released in August by the U.S. Census Bureau.

But not in central Ohio.

The region boomed – as it has since the 1990s – accounting for roughly 90% of the state's overall growth from 2010 to 2020, according to an analysis by the Columbus Dispatch. Ten of its 15 counties gained residents, and five placed in the top six in the state in growth percentage during that time.

Central Ohio growth 2010-2020

Central Ohio accounted for roughly 90% of Ohio's overall growth over the last decade, according to an analysis by the Columbus Dispatch, with 10 of its 15 counties gaining residents (despite two-thirds of the state's counties shrinking).

Knox County grew 3% over the last decade, adding 1,800 residents. It ranked 18th out of Ohio's 88 counties in growth percentage from 2010 to 2020, and second among population centers two counties away from Columbus (behind only Greene County, which borders Montgomery and Warren counties in southwest Ohio and is not considered a part of central Ohio, according to the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission).

While local and regional officials have varying opinions on what the future may hold for Knox County – some believe the county could grow 25% by 2050, while others predict more moderate growth – seemingly all view it as a part of the next frontier for growth in central Ohio, primed for population expansion based on a number of internal and external factors.

“When you look at Licking County and Delaware County’s growth, and central Ohio as a whole, I think we are kind of the next frontier for that growth moving here," said Knox County Commissioner Thom Collier, who has four decades worth of experience in local real estate and has served in government at the city, county and state levels.

"We’ve already experienced, as many places have, a housing shortage and high demand, and I think that’s just indicative of our time. But I think we’re gonna continue to see growth and hopefully we can plan for it ahead of time.”

In the weeks since the 2020 census was released, Knox Pages has spoken with dozens of local and regional officials – working in government, economic development, real estate and other sectors – to better understand where Knox County stands on this "new frontier."

The result is a new series, titled "Bracing for Impact," which seeks to examine Knox County's potential for growth in the coming decades.

A new story will publish each Sunday, and will be featured exclusively in Knox Pages' daily email newsletter, along with behind-the-scenes insight from the reporter.

The first story in the series, publishing next Sunday, will take a step back and look at how Knox County grew 3% over the last decade. Ensuing pieces will consider the factors at-play when considering Knox County's future growth potential, and what growth would mean for Knox County long-term.

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Staff Reporter

Grant is a 2018 graduate of Ohio Northern University, where he studied journalism and played basketball. He likes coffee, books and minor league baseball. He loves telling stories and has a passion for local news.