If you're feeling a bit more crowded in Douglas County, you're not imagining it — you have 3,000 new neighbors.

The latest data from the 2020 Census showed that the number of people living in the county rose to 39,006 from 36,009 in 2010.

"We have seen a lot of people, younger families and retired folks, moving to our community," said Dave Rush, county director of Land and Resource Management. "Certainly with the start of the pandemic and changes to how people work and the economy, a lot of decisions were made based on that. We have seen people who sold their homes in the Twin Cities move up here.”

Still, there's not as many people living here as planners thought there would be by now. Based on the area's previous rapid population gains, demographers expected the county to be home to 42,000-plus residents by last year. The Alexandria area was named one of the 10 fastest growing areas in the nation in 2010.

The housing crash of 2007 slammed the brakes on development here, as in many parts of the country, and it took several years to recover.

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"Any developer with lots had to sit on them or they gave them back to the bank and walked away," Rush said.

However, the Census data is already out-of-date. Rush pointed out that data from the 2020 Census reflects the previous decade, and not this year or last, when the county has been adding subdivisions at a rate last seen in the early 2000s.

Low interest rates, a desire for more land for families, and retirements among boomers have driven demand for property, said long-time local real estate agent Sheryl Bakewell.

“People seem to want to acquire a property in this area," she said.

The Census count found that Douglas County was not quite as white as in decades past; only 95% white versus the 98.5% in 2000. The latest census offered more options for people to identify with racial groups, and many of those who chose another race also defined themselves as partly white.

Older groups surged as a percentage of the population, from 17.9% in 2000 age 65 or older, to 23.4% in 2020 in that same age group. That aligns with demographers' predictions that older groups would make strong population gains in Douglas County, given its popularity as a retirement destination.

Douglas County's youngest residents, those under age 5, held pretty steady, ticking down from 6% in 2010 to 5.9% in 2020.