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Wadena County population shrinks

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Wadena, 56482
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Wadena Minnesota 314 S. Jefferson 56482

Wadena County experienced an unexpected shrink in population, according to county officials after hearing a demographics report from the Region Five Development Commission.

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The county's 13,713 population in 2000 declined by 63 residents to 13,650 in 2005.

The previous report predicted a slight increase in population over the next 10 years instead of the slight decrease the county recently experienced, said Mary Harrison, county commissioner.

"I thought we were gaining," said Lane Waldahl, chairman of the board. "Then when they said we took a dip, that did surprise me."

The specifics of why the county is losing people will take awhile to figure out, said Orville Meyer, county commissioner. He surmised an aging population and families having fewer children are possible reasons for the decline.

The report stated the county has gained 5,839 residents since 1970. The county experienced a significant rise in population around 1980 and a dip around 1990.

The recent slip was not a great change, Harrison said, and it is too soon to tell anything from the numbers. The county has held a stable population and even grown a little bit until now.

"If we start seeing a trend, it might be different," Harrison said.

Waldahl said he is also concerned about the potential consequences of lost population.

"If there's a dip that means people aren't building homes and the tax base will go down," he said.

The county should be trying to get people into the area, Waldahl said.

"I think Wadena County is still a very desirable place to live," Meyer said. "Most towns only have one or two stop lights. No traffic jams."

Other Wadena County statistics in the 2006 Regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy include:

• The poverty rate ranked fourth from highest to lowest out of the 87 counties in Minnesota in 2003. The poverty rate is determined by the number of people living below the poverty level. The overall poverty rate in Wadena County was 11.9 percent in 2003, 14.1 percent in 1999 and 21.8 percent in 1989. The poverty rate for people under 18 years of age was 16.5 percent in 2003.

• The report stated the per capita income for Wadena County has increased since 1970, although this increase lags behind the Minnesota and United States average in an increasing gap. The per capita income was $24,665 in 2004 after adjustments for inflation. Minnesota's was $37,411 for the same time period. Wadena County's numbers increased by 25.4 percent from 1994 when the per capita income was $19,661.

• The unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in May 2006. Minnesota's unemployment rate in May 2006 was 3.3 percent--its lowest rate since November and December 2000 when it was at 3.1 percent. The national average is 4.4 percent.

• The median age was 39.9 in 2000 compared to 35.4 for Minnesota and 35.3 for the United States.

• The median price for a home was $78,750 in September 2005, a 64.7 percent increase from January 2000 when the median price for a home was $47,820. The median price for Minnesota was $139,550 in the period of January 2000 to September 2001 and $194,900 in the period of January 2004 to September 2005.

• 20.5 percent of the population 25 years and older had no high school diploma in 2000. The overall rate in Minnesota at the time was 12.1 percent. During the 1980s Wadena County figures showed that 42.2 percent had no diploma. In 2000, 13.4 percent had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 27.4 percent for Minnesota,

• The total of all reported crimes in 2002 was 276 per 10,000 population, compared to 353 per 10,000 for Minnesota, according to FBI statistics. The violent crime rate in 2002 was 18 per 10,000 population, compared to 27 per 10,000 for Minnesota.

sarah@wadenapj.com

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