Railyard

Lincoln is growing.

And it really doesn’t matter what area you look at.

Population. Enrollment in schools. Economy.

Almost every aspect of Nebraska’s capital city has grown exponentially during the last 20 years, and it doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.

“This city is now a desirable location for everyone it seems,” said David Cary, Lincoln’s long-range planning manager.

The main cause of this rise boils down to population growth, Cary said.

It’s the core of any kind of growth, and it affects all other areas, as the 2013 Lancaster County Community Indicators Report found.

Because of this growth, Lincoln’s economy has become one of the more stable ones in the country.

Population growth

In 2000, the population of Lancaster County was 250,291, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Since then, the county has grown, building up to 2010’s count of 285,407.

Another consistent aspect to this growth is Lincoln’s population. It is right around 90 percent of Lancaster County’s total population every year.

In 2012, Lincoln’s estimated population was 90.5 percent of the county’s overall population.

“Anywhere around Lincoln has always been a popular spot to live in Lancaster County,” said Brandon Garrett, a long-range planner in the Lincoln Planning Department.

And that kind of growth is starting to affect everything throughout the city, starting with the schools.

Lincoln Public Schools saw enrollment reach an all-time high at 36,902 in 2012. That’s mainly because of the population increase of last 12 years.

According to the Lancaster County Community Indicators Report, LPS grew slightly more than 12 percent from 1990 to 2000. But from 2000 to 2012, that statistic grew more than 5 percentage points to 17.6 percent with an annual average of 1.4 percent, according to the report.

Origins of growth

For the most part, growth comes from what the county indicator report calls “natural change.” This means an increase in population from an ever-changing physical landscape to the county and Lincoln, according to Garrett.

Lincoln itself has increased its number of lots for single- and two-family units from 6,711 in 2004 to 10,478 in 2013, a 56 percent increase during the course of nine years, according to Planning Department data. This gives people a place to live as population continues to grow.

However, natural change is far from the only reason Lincoln and its school system is growing.

Immigrants accounted for 50 percent of Lincoln’s total population increase between 1990 and 2000, according to the county indicators report, with most of that being international immigration. The 12 years between 2000 and 2012 saw smaller immigrant representation – just 34 percent – but it still affects the school system.

Of the 36,000-plus students enrolled in LPS, 30.3 percent are minority students, most of them being Hispanic. That’s a 17 percent increase since 2000.

“LPS is probably the greatest indicator of our cultural growth in Lincoln,” Garrett said.

There isn’t a direct correlation between Lincoln’s population growth and its economy, but the facts do make for an interesting comparison, Lincoln’s manager of economic development, Mike Lang said.

As Lincoln has been having this population increase, it has enjoyed economic success as well, especially during the last 12 years.

Along with an increase in wages, unemployment is down, to 3.4 percent, compared with the U.S. average of 7.9 percent.

Total employment has also remained relatively stagnant since its decline in 2008.

“There’s always a correlation between population and the economy,” Lang said.

Cary said if the city continues to increase its population at a 1.2 percent rate per year, there will be more than 400,000 living in it 30 years down the road.

“Lincoln is going places, that’s for sure,” Cary said.

news@dailynebraskan.com