Five counties in Oklahoma are among the nation’s fastest-growing, according to a newly released compilation by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Custer, Canadian, Woodward, McClain and Texas counties made a list of the top 100 fastest-growing counties with populations of 10,000 or more from July 2012 through July 2013, the bureau reported.
Custer and Canadian had the highest population increases at 2.9 percent, followed by Woodward at 2.8 percent, McClain at 2.6 percent and Texas at 2.4 percent.
This growth isn’t concentrated in one part of the state. Texas County is in the Panhandle, Woodward and Custer counties are both in the western region, and Canadian and McClain counties are in central Oklahoma.
The five counties vary greatly in population. Canadian is the largest with 126,123 people, according to the 2013 census estimate, while Woodward is the smallest at 22,0821. Canadian’s county seat, El Reno, is the most populated in the group at 17,857, while Custer’s county seat, Arapaho, is too small to be considered a city by census standards.
Most of that growth is due to an influx of employment in the oil and gas sector, according to Don Hackler, public information officer for the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
Custer, Canadian and Woodward counties have benefitted from the growing energy industry. Chesapeake Energy Co. and Devon Energy Corp. have located field offices in those counties and moved employees from Oklahoma City to work in them. But the growth spurts aren’t attributable entirely to employee relocations, Hackler said.
“In the grand scheme of things, there are a lot of new hires,” Hackler said.
Woodward is also the location of a Siemens Energy, Inc. wind power service distribution center, and Texas County is home to a Seaboard Corp. pork processing facility, both of which brought in employees from other areas, Hackler said.
McClain County’s growth does not appear to be directly tied to the energy industry, but rather to the county’s location. Its fastest-growing city, Newcastle, is roughly 20 minutes away from Oklahoma City.
Newcastle’s population increased by 405 from July 2012 through July 2013, making the city responsible for nearly half of McClain County’s total growth. City Manager Nick Mazer said a large portion of the community commutes to Norman or Oklahoma City for work, and many work for Chesapeake or Devon in the capital city.
“There’s a lot of really positive things as far as where we’re located,” Mazer said.
Elsewhere in the United States, Williams County in North Dakota is the nation’s fastest-growing county, up 10.7 percent over the 12-month period. The counties at the bottom of the top 100 list grew by 2.1 percent.
Burden is an OU journalism senior who is interning for Oklahoma Watch. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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