MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Minnesota was by far the fastest growing Midwestern state from April 2000 to July 2001 and Scott County was its fastest growing county, according to Census Bureau population estimates released Monday.
In fact, Scott County had the largest population growth in the northern half of the United States. The census figures show the population of Scott County swelled 9.6 percent to 98,100 by last summer.
The county was the 12th fastest growing in the nation, census figures show. That is an exceptionally high ranking for a Frost Belt county, in an era when the Sun Belt dominates when it comes to rapid growth.
With Twin Cities suburbs in the lead, Minnesota's population will soon top 5 million people, even as Iowa and North Dakota are losing population.
Minnesota's population grew 1.1 percent to 4.97 million last summer from 4.92 million in April 2000. Wisconsin and South Dakota reported growth of less than 1 percent during the same period.
It isn't just Scott County. Sherburne, Chisago and Wright counties rank among the top 100 among more than 3,000 U.S. counties, as does St. Croix County, just across the border in Wisconsin. Only four states, including Texas and Florida, have more counties in the top 100.
The replacement of the decrepit Bloomington Ferry Bridge over the Minnesota River during the 1990s set off the land rush that is causing Scott County, on the south edge of the metro area, to surge so high in the national rankings.
"I am just flabbergasted," said Barry Stock, Savage's deputy city administrator. "Where are all these people coming from?"
Dale and Deb Anderson and their two young children came to Shakopee from Burnsville in 1997. They were searching for an affordable home in a small-town setting with good parks and schools, yet a short drive to suburban amenities such as first-rate supermarkets and discount stores.
"A lot of people are coming in," Deb Anderson said, "but it still feels like a close-knit community where people know each other and look out for each other."
The image of Scott County as a land of nothing but overalls and feed-store caps is passe, local people say. Stock expects Savage's median family income, when the Census Bureau releases it in a month or two, to clock in at around $80,000.
And the business community is taking notice, he said.
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