Middle Georgias fastest-growing cities arent its largest.
The latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates suggest that Perry may have had the largest number of new voluntary residents, averaging a new resident every 22 hours.
Mayor Jimmy Faircloth said people seem willing to drive a bit farther to their jobs if they can live in Perry. That leads to growth.
Its obtainable, its sustainable, and were ready for it, he said. Why are people coming here? I think if you look, our quality of life is excellent.
Milledgeville claimed the highest rate of growth in the new estimates -- 9.52 percent between the April 2010 census and the estimates for July 2012 -- but most of those new residents appear to live in a new private prison. The estimates suggest that Milledgeville grew by 1,686 people, but Riverbend Correctional Facility accounted for 1,506 inmates.
Macon was essentially stagnant, dropping 117 people, or 0.13 percent.
Along with Perry (6.44 percent) and Milledgeville, Warner Robins (6.2 percent), Centerville (5.4 percent), Byron (4.6 percent) and Forsyth (3.5 percent) posted strong estimated population increases.
In raw numbers, Warner Robins was at the head of the pack, adding 4,124 people between the 2010 census and the July 2012 population estimates. Thats most of the net 6,806 increase in cities from 11 Middle Georgia counties, and it also pushed Warner Robins over the 70,000 mark.
But smaller cities all did better than their unincorporated areas. Houston Countys population grew overall at 4.5 percent, less than any of its cities. Peach County lost population overall in the estimates, while Monroe Countys growth was 0.8 percent.
Bibb County added 915 people overall, or about 0.6 percent over the period, the estimates show.
But population losses in more rural counties were echoed in some local cities. Jeffersonville lost an estimated 56 people, or 5.4 percent, dropping the population below 1,000. Cochrans population fell below 5,000 after the population dipped 5.8 percent.
Dublin grew an estimated 14 people, or 0.09 percent.
Earlier this year, University of Georgia demographer Doug Bachtel attributed population losses in some areas, and generally slow growth in Middle Georgia, to the lack of jobs and a diversified economy. Jeffersonville is in Twiggs County, where the kaolin industry has been pummelled in recent years.
Other cities have been hurt by the economy, but some of them used the slower time to get ready for growth.
Byron Mayor Larry Collins said his city has 800 to 1,000 housing units on the drawing board, with infrastructure readied during the recession. The city partnered with a gas company, set aside about 800 acres for a new industrial and commercial park, and quintupled its sewer capacity through a sales-tax-fueled deal with the Macon Water Authority.
If you ride through town and see something green growing, chances are in a few years theres going to be a house there, Collins said. Were good to go.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.