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Pearl River is twelfth fastest-growing county in state

When the United States Census Bureau recently released its population estimates for 2007, Pearl River was ranked as the 12th fastest-growing county in Mississippi, said Dr. Barbara Logue of the Miss. Institute for Higher Learning’s Center for Policy and Research Planning.

Logue said in a telephone interview last week that the current population estimate as of July 1, 2007 for Pearl River County is 57,071, up from 56,360 in 2006.

“Since the last census (in 2000), there has been a total growth in Pearl River County of 8,450 people. Of that, the natural increase, which is determined by subtracting the number of deaths from the number of births in that time frame, is 1,370. The rest of the increase, 7,363 people, occurred from migration from outside the county,” Logue said.

Pearl River County Planning and Development Director Dr. Ed Pinero said the census estimates for 2007 are surprising, in his opinion.

“You would have thought our numbers would go down, because of the people going back to New Orleans and Saint Bernard Parish, but the people are staying here,” Pinero said.

Pinero said the population growth is still higher than the average before Hurricane Katrina, and that these numbers reinforce the need for planning and development within the county.

“We were averaging about a 500-person increase per year before Katrina, and this past year, we saw an increase of over 700 people. The increase continues even as new homes become available in the southern counties and parishes. This adds proof that we need to continue to plan for growth,” Pinero said.

Pinero says these numbers should not be confused with the county’s ranking last year of seventh in the nation in percentage of new home construction.

“Our ranking of seventh in the nation was not based on actual numbers, but rather on the percentage of new homes built in the prior year,” Pinero said.

Pinero says that the fact that the county continues to grow in the wake of the national hardships and economic downturn seen in recent months is highly significant.

“These hardships have staggered growth in most areas of the United States, but we continue to grow. We need to manage this growth so it’s done wisely and efficiently so as not to create hardships on the county’s infrastructure in the future. Strategic plans, growth plans and comprehensive plans that have been developed county-wide are going to be huge benefits as the county grows and prospers,” Pinero said.

Other counties that ranked higher in the state in rate of growth include, from 11th to first: Lowndes, Jones, Lauderdale, Forrest, Lee, Madison, Jackson, Rankin, Desoto, Harrison and Hinds.