• 59°

Population gains for Boyle projected to be tempered by shrinking numbers regionally

By JODY LASSITER

Contributing columnist

A recent study by the Kentucky State Data Center at the University of Louisville has projected that Kentucky’s state population will grow 10.4 percent between 2015 and 2040.  This increase will expand Kentuckians in number from 4,425,092 to an estimated 4,886,381.

Where does Boyle County’s future population fit into this new data report? Boyle County will be one of only 41 of Kentucky’s 120 counties that are projected to grow during this period. This growth is largely confined to metropolitan and micropolitan or adjacent areas. Boyle County is one of the 13 counties located within micropolitan areas that are part of Kentucky’s future population growth.  

What does this mean? The commonwealth’s more populated communities will continue to grow at the expense of rural areas with less population density.  Conversely, 79 Kentucky counties are projected to experience population loss.  A map of the commonwealth’s counties visually demonstrates that these are predominantly rural counties from the Mississippi to the mountains, with the latter eastern counties representing the most extensive loss in population.      

Let’s drill down into the numbers for Boyle County. In the 2010 Census, Boyle had a total population of 28,342.  Halfway through the decennial period, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that Boyle’s population has grown to 29,809 in 2015. That’s an increase of 1,377 people or 4.8 percent over five years.

From 2015 to 2040, the Kentucky State Data Center projects that Boyle will grow to a population of 32,431. That’s an additional increase of 2,622 people or 8.8 percent growth from the 2015 estimate by 2040. For the entire 30-year period from the 2010 Census through the 2040 projection, Boyle is projected to gain a total of 3,999 people, which represents 14.1-percent population growth.

Boyle’s good news of growth is not shared by the rest of our immediate region. Mercer, Garrard, Lincoln and Casey are all projected to lose population over the 25-year period of the study. Projected population declines range from Garrard’s almost-flat -0.4 percent to more concerning levels of Mercer’s -6.4 percent, Lincoln’s -8.8 percent, and Casey’s -13.2 percent.  

Why should this concern us in Boyle County? As of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 data, 66.2 percent of Boyle County’s workforce commutes from their homes in counties outside Boyle to work here. And where do they come from? Approximately 13.6 percent of our workforce commutes from Lincoln County, which is such a close economic integration that Lincoln is designated a part of the Danville Micropolitan Area. Lincoln is followed by Mercer at 6.6 percent, Garrard at 4.7 percent, and Casey at 3.9 percent as providers of Boyle’s regional workforce. Together, these four neighboring counties provide 28.8 percent of Boyle’s workers.

Boyle County is already competing in a global market where available workforce is an increasingly challenging problem, not only for existing businesses but also for recruiting new businesses. The Kentucky State Data Center’s projections over the next 25 years show that the four counties sourcing 28.8 percent of our workforce are projected to lose (ironically) 28.8 percent of their future population. Boyle’s 8.8-percent population growth over the same period will not make up the difference for our future workforce needs.

The quandary for Boyle is this:  Where will we find the needed workers to fill what could be a potential 20-percent gap in our available workforce over the next 25 years?          

So, the good news for Boyle’s future population growth brings with it some apprehension for our regional economy. While we prepare for projected population growth locally, we must also plan strategies to address a shrinking regional workforce pool that must be utilized by our growth. Growth is good for Boyle, but the numbers suggest that we will feel some growing pains in the process over the next 25 years.

To learn more about the Kentucky State Data Center’s recent population projections, you may review the full report online at bit.ly/2f1wgQ3.

Jody Lassiter is president and CEO of the Danville-Boyle County Economic Development Partnership.