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Population booms

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:45 PM

That's when it will become clear if Ottawa County still holds the distinction of being the fastest-growing of 83 Michigan counties.

The most recent numbers, from 2012, clocked Ottawa County with 269,099 residents. Statistics show that 1,870 new residents moved into Northwest Ottawa County – the cities of Grand Haven and Ferrysburg, Village of Spring Lake and townships of Spring Lake and Grand Haven – between 2010 and 2012.

Ottawa County Research and Evaluation Analyst Shannon Virtue said in the eight years she has worked for the county, population has increased, even during the economic recession of 2008.“I think this is positive for the county,” Virtue said. “We weathered that (economic downturn) population-wise.”

Ottawa, which is the 10th largest county in the state, hopes to retain its No. 1 growth ranking when the new numbers come out in March. Between 2011 and 2012, Ottawa bested second-place Kent County and tied-for-third-place Grand Traverse and Kalamazoo counties for the largest resident influx.

“We've been in the top 3 or 4 for the last eight years,” Virtue said. “We've definitely been growing. It's a nice area with lots of good amenities. Obviously the beaches in the summer are a big attraction and Ottawa County has a good tax rate for homeowners. I think it's always a good selling point. We have the second lowest county millage rate in the state.”

Speaking of state, the grand ol' mitten gets a thumbs up for population consistency.

According to Atlas Van Lines’ annual migration study, the number of people moving into and leaving Michigan in 2013 balanced out.

During economic tough times a few years ago, there was a mass exodus of people looking for work in other states.

Dennis Zimmer, who rents U-Haul trucks from Zimmer Automotive in Spring Lake, saw that migration first-hand.

He ran out of moving equipment because all one-way rentals were going the other way.

“Lots and lots of folks were headed to the Carolinas, Texas and Arizona because they didn't have any work here,” Zimmer said. “2007 was a banner year, but in 2008 we had a real problem with no equipment.”

To read more of this story, see Saturday’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.

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