March 18, 2011 | Northfield News | Original Article

Census 2010: Spike in Latino population propels city past 20,000

Northfield reached a milestone, surpassing 20,000 residents, according to U.S. Census figures released Wednesday.

Almost 25 percent of Northfield’s growth was in the city’s Latino population, which increased by 72 percent from 2000.

But despite the obvious signs of growth, seeing Northfield reach the 20,007-resident mark and discovering Dundas saw a 150 percent population increase, was bit of an eye-opener.

Dundas’ 1,367 residents, 820 more than in 2000, surprised city’s administrator John McCarthy’s prediction of about 1,200 residents.

And while Northfield’s 17 percent growth couldn’t rival Dundas’ rate of increase, the College City has 2,860 more residents than it did the decade prior.

The population more than doubled in the Dakota County portion of Northfield, which went from 557 in 2000 to 1,147 in 2010, accounting for about 21 percent of the city’s increased population.

Councilor Betsey Buckheit, who sat on the Northfield’s Planning Commission during the early part of the last decade, said she anticipated increases in that portion of the city, adding that she expects high growth in Northfield’s southeast as well. Both areas of Northfield are home to many of the city’s new housing developments.

A change

While Wednesday’s Census numbers confirm anecdotal information Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin has used to quantify the area’s Latino population, the Rural Enterprise Center director says the numbers tell him Northfielders need a reality check.

“We’ve got to wake up and smell the coffee,” he said. “This community is not the same and it will not be the same again.”

There’s been a lot of talk about integration, but little action, he said, adding that it’s time for the community to do more than recognize that Latino comprise a significant portion of its population.

“We’ve got to start getting very serious about change in this community,” he said.

Buckheit, noting the city’s 2010 support of a revamped Welcome Center, believes the City Council has a role to play in affecting change and integrating newcomers.

Housing and economic development are key areas in which new residents, especially Latinos, can be integrated into the city’s mainstream. But there are other ways the council can help assure integration occurs, she said, noting that council members , along with board and commission members, can seek out the underrepresented and invite them to participate.

“But ultimately,” she said, “people have to choose to be involved.”

Economic development

The Census figures are important, in that they give developers and businesses actual population numbers, not projections, said Jody Gunderson, Northfield economic development director.

The 20,000 figure, while not as significant for economic development as in the past, still conjures up images of what amenities the community has to offer, he said, be that for prospective residents or businesses. And, he said, growth in the surrounding area is also viewed favorably by potential businesses.

“The growth speaks well for the city,” he said. “It says it’s a desirable place to be.”

A new map

Census data gives Minnesota lawmakers the information they need to begin redrawing the state's political map to ensure all districts are equally represented.

New census numbers show that the boundaries of all eight congressional districts must expand or contract to reflect recent population shifts. Big changes are also in store for some of the state's 201 legislative districts, where populations changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

The once-a-decade redistricting will start with new boundaries for the eight congressional districts. The target population for each is about 663,000, meaning the 2nd District needs to lose about 70,000 residents.

New district boundaries must be in place by early next year, well ahead of the 2012 primary election.
The city of Northfield is expected to begin its redistricting process later this fall.