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Colorado Springs moves up to No. 40 in the U.S., but growth overshadowed by Denver

May 19, 2016 Updated: May 20, 2016 at 9:55 am
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A rainbow hangs in the evening sky above downtown Colorado Springs Saturday, July 6, 2013. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette

El Paso County and Colorado Springs continue to grow at a steady pace, but their growth is being overshadowed by Denver and its suburbs, which have been skyrocketing the past few years.

Population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, released Thursday, show that Denver is now the 19th most populous city in the nation with an estimated 2015 population of 682,545. El Paso County had a 2015 estimated population of 674,471 with th epopulation of Colorado Spring, the 40th biggest city in the country, making up 456,568 of that.

The growth in Denver means the county has regained its title of having the largest population in the state, a title that El Paso County held from 2010 through 2013. From 2010 through 2015, Denver County grew by about 13 percent compared to 7.6 percent for El Paso County, Census figures show.

Tatiana Bailey, director of the UCCS Economic Forum, said Denver has been growing because of its reputation for attracting millennials and building an entrepreneurial culture. Now that the culture is stable, the city is keeping millennials because it's easy for them to find new jobs without having to move, she said.

"If something goes south for them, they have somewhere else to go," she said. As a result, the Denver area has a higher percentage of millennials than Colorado Springs. In Denver County, people aged 18-34 made up 31 percent of the population from 2009-2013, in El Paso County those ages made up 26 percent of the population.

Part of the slower growth may also be because of the county's dependence on federal jobs, said Elizabeth Garner, Colorado state demographer.

"El Paso is recovering slower from the downturn, much to do with the number of federal jobs in El Paso which were impacted by the recession and sequestration," she said. "The hits to the area also impacted local government budgets which also impacted local services."

Bailey said it's not necessarily a bad thing that El Paso County hasn't been growing at the same clip. First off, the steady growth is keeping El Paso County affordable while real estate prices have been soaring in Denver for potential homeowners and businesses looking to rent space.

"Denver is starting to crowd out people," she said. "It's starting to become like San Francisco where only the really big or wealthy companies can afford to start there."

That affordability in El Paso County will ultimately cause a "spillover effect" from those priced out of the Denver market, she said. Those people, who may be commuting to Denver, will still be shopping here and contributing to the local tax base, she said.

"Some communities would be happy to just get the spillover effect of Denver," she said. "But I see enough good things happening in Colorado Springs that it will grow in and of itself."

Currently, she said, there are more advertisements for jobs in Colorado Springs than there are people looking for jobs.

Most of the growth within El Paso County has been happening in the City of Colorado Springs, which added almost 36,000 estimated people between 2010 to 2015. Some of the smaller towns in the county, like Monument and Fountain have also been experiencing steady growth, with Monument increasing by an estimated 6.1 percent between 2010 and 2015.

Larry Manning, planning director for Monument, said the town is attracting both those people who work in Denver and those in Colorado Springs. While the town is still primarily a bedroom community, more and more people are becoming involved in the daily life there, he said.

"Sometimes in a bedroom community, you get a lack of interest in community because people come and live here but go to work elsewhere," he said. "But there seems to be a lot of folks who like the quaintness of our downtown, the environment of our forested areas and the views of the mountains."

Bailey said El Paso County as a whole is predicted to keep on growing. By the year 2050, the state demography office estimates that the county will have 1,070,833 people living here, which would again make it the most populous county in the state. By then, Denver County is predicted to have 922,512 people.

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Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0238

Twitter @mariastlouis

Facebook Gazette Maria St. Louis-Sanchez

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