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Alexandria’s population hit 13,008 in 2012, according to the state demographer’s office. The growth trend is projected to continue. (Echo Press photo by Amy Chaffins)

13,008 and counting

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It’s certainly not a news flash to those who live here, but the city of Alexandria continues to grow.

Alexandria’s population grew from 12,920 in 2011 to 13,008 people in 2012, according to recently released numbers from the state demographer’s office.

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Mike Weber, Alexandria’s city planner for the last 20 years, said population growth is important from the planning perspective.

“Population growth really is the driver for all of our housing, transportation, park and recreation, and utilities, all of those planning functions.

“If you don’t anticipate growth, if you don’t plan for growth and all you do is respond to growth, that’s a bad thing because you’re always playing catch up,” he said.

Weber said a growing population is also significant for the private sector. Businesses rely on the city’s housing studies and comprehensive plan to plan for their own growth.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU?

The population increase may not mean that much to some people. It’s a number on a sign.

However, Weber said, “A community’s ability to manage that growth is crucial because you have to provide housing and schools and streets and utilities and that matters, I think, to everybody on a daily basis. I think the fact that we anticipated this growth has been very good.”

He used the North Dakota oil fields as an example of what can happen when a community doesn’t plan, or doesn’t have time to plan, for growth. “It can be very expensive to try and catch up from the public and private sides,” Weber said.

Along with the economic boon, a growing population can also bring more government aid. “The larger the community, the more likely there’s additional aid dollars tied to that,” Weber said.

WHAT’S AHEAD

Weber has lived in the Alexandria community for 30 years and personally, he says the growth has been almost unbelievable.

“When I moved here in the early 70s, the population of the city was just a shade over 7,000. We still had vast tracts of land along Highway 29 in the city that were undeveloped. Kmart wasn’t here, Target wasn’t here, Walmart wasn’t here, the Viking Plaza shopping mall had seven stores. So, just from the commercial side of things, we’ve had unbelievable growth, fantastic growth.”

And it’s expected to keep on growing.

The comprehensive plan projects continued population and household growth in Alexandria through 2030, with an estimated population of 15,489 at that time, a 19 percent surge from today.

Weber noted that the plan’s projections are pretty accurate and is projecting a population of 13,918 in Alexandria in 2015. “We have room in the city for additional growth. We have thousands of acres of undeveloped land that will develop and the key is to develop it in an orderly and efficient fashion,” Weber said.

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota.
(320) 763-3133
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