Echoing a trend around the state of residents leaving rural areas, northeast Nebraska was not spared a population decline, according to Census figures released this week.
Every county in the immediate Yankton area lost population between 2000 and 2010. Only Dakota County, which is the location of South Sioux City, Neb., showed growth.
However, within that larger landscape of population decline, several communities managed to gain residents.
Center, Newcastle, Norfolk, St. Helena, Santee, South Sioux City, Verdigre and Wayne saw their numbers of residents increase during the past 10 years.
Alisha Bartling, clerk for the Village of Verdigre, was surprised to see the community had grown from 519 to 575, an increase of 10.8 percent.
“It’s great, but it shocks me,” she said. “(The Census Bureau) had projected us dropping to about 495.”
Factors that would have led to an influx of more than 50 residents do not immediately come to mind, Bartling stated. New houses have been built, but nothing out of the ordinary.
“We did do a new school renovation project, and we’re seeing people come for that. We could attribute some of the growth to the new school,” Bartling speculated.
And, she said, things are looking good for the future.
“We have a lot of babies right now,” Bartling added with a laugh. “People are doing their part to populate the school.”
Much more common in the region were statistics like those found in Crofton. The community saw its population decline by 3.7 percent to 726 — a number with which Crofton Economic Development Director Linda Wuebben wasn’t entirely dissatisfied.
“I was afraid it was going to decline by more,” she said.
The community is doing what it can, along with other entities like the Knox County Economic Development Office, to halt or reverse the trend of population loss, Wuebben stated. A new hotel was recently opened and there are plans to expand a street on the community’s northern edge to make way for new housing.
“Crofton really needs new houses — hopefully to bring young families in,” Wuebben said.
In the future, she said the community may consider incentives to encourage people to move to Crofton.
While laying the groundwork for the future, Wuebben said, “We’re just trying to keep our town looking clean, healthy and attractive.”
Norfolk, Nebraska's ninth-largest community, had an increase of 694 individuals, or 3 percent, bringing its population to 24,210. That’s about half the growth rate of neighboring regional economic hub Yankton, which grew by 6.9 percent to 14,454.
Madison County, where Norfolk is located, saw its population decline by 1 percent to 34,876.
Cedar County declined 7.9 percent to 8,852; Dakota County grew 3.7 percent to 21,006; Dixon County declined 5.3 percent to 6,000; Knox County declined 7.2 percent to 8,701; Pierce County declined by 7.5 percent to 7,266; and Wayne County declined by 2.6 percent to 9,595.
The 2010 Census also showed that:
• Bloomfield decreased by 8.7 percent to 1,028;
• Center increased by 4.4 percent to 94;
• Coleridge decreased by 12.6 percent to 473;
• Creighton decreased by 9.1 percent to 1,154;
• Fordyce decreased by 23.6 percent to 139;
• Hartington decreased by 5.2 percent to 1,554;
• Laurel decreased by 2.2 percent to 964;
• Lindy held steady at 13;
• Newcastle increased by 8.7 percent to 325;
• Niobrara decreased by 2.4 percent to 370;
• Pierce decreased by .4 percent to 1,767;
• Plainview decreased by 7.9 percent to 1,246;
• Ponca decreased by 9.5 percent to 961;
• Randolph decreased by 1.2 percent to 944;
• St. Helena increased by 11.6 percent to 96;
• Santee increased by 14.6 percent to 346;
• South Sioux City increased by 12 percent to 13,353;
• Wausa decreased by .3 percent to 634;
• Wayne increased by 1.4 percent to 5,660;
• Winnetoon decreased by 2.9 percent to 68; and
• Wynot decreased by 13.1 percent to 166.