July 11, 2007 TRI-CITY AREA — With the prevalence of 'For Sale' signs and a long list of foreclosures, it's hard to believe that census estimates show significant gains in some local communities over the past seven years.
But the figures from July 2000 to July 2006 are probably the best evidence of a thriving economy that's not so ancient history.
New numbers released late last month by the U.S. Census Department show Imlay Twp., the village of Capac and Mussey Twp. to be the top three population gainers in the Tri-City area.
Imlay Twp. saw its number of residents increase by more than 760 people or 28 percent from 2000 to 2006.
Supervisor Steve Hoeksema said developers were most likely drawn to the township because of its abundance of vacant land.
"We defintely noticed the growth. We had so many private road requests and people in front of the planning commission," he said.
"We had the land available. Now (new construction) is almost nonexistent."
Capac, which saw its population rise by 26 percent, has reason to believe that upturn will continue. Three housing projects are in limbo but their owners say they are waiting for some better economic news. That just might materialize when Keihin Manufacturing breaks ground this month and starts to hire 200 employees.
Acting Manager Dennis Collison said the Indiana-based company plans to send 14 families to the area.
"It's possible we could grow by those numbers again in the next five years," he said.
Capac Commons and Palmer Place Condos have had site plans approved, there's the possibility of new construction at Deer Park Estates and Hunters Crossing Park is considering an expansion.
On the other end of the spectrum are cities and villages like Almont, Imlay City and Dryden.
Imlay City Manager Amy Planck says the gradual downturn in the economy could be to blame for the loss of 39 residents since 2000. It appears that most of the homes foreclosed on go unrented and families who move go out of state, Planck said.
She cited a recent housing study that said there was a shortage of housing for first-time home buyers in the $120,000 range and first-floor access condominiums for senior citizens.
"The Imlay Place Condos are probably the best thing going right now," Planck said.
Almont Twp. remains the area's largest municipality with more than 7,000 residents. They gained more than 1,000 new ones over the seven year period.