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Local News

Joliet growing; now third-largest claim awaits further review

JOLIET – Joliet’s population could top 150,000 by the 2020 Census, which might confirm a claim made last week that the city already has become the third largest in Illinois.

Still, Rockford is not ready to concede third-largest city status.

“Not so fast, Joliet,” Rockford City Administrator Jim Ryan said with a chuckle last week when asked about Joliet’s claim.

Joliet held a special census last year in order to get more state tax dollars that are based on population.

The special census, done only in areas were the city identified housing starts and likely growth, showed an addition of 1,962 people.

The added population should be worth $288,000 a year until the 2020 Census numbers kick in, City Manager Jim Hock told the city council last week.

Hock also said the growth, combined with a U.S. Census Bureau estimate of a decline in Rockford population, makes Joliet the third-largest city in Illinois now. Hock gave slightly incorrect numbers to the council last week, but the corrected numbers would still make Joliet third largest if the Census Bureau estimate holds up.

Ryan noted that Census Bureau estimates aren’t perfect, however.

“It’s not official,” Ryan said. “The estimate, while there’s a lot of analysis that goes into it, it can be off.”

Rockford has lost population through foreclosures, but that could be changing, he said.

“The good news is our economy has rebounded,” Ryan said. “We’re seeing new job growth.”

That combined with some annexations, which account for about 220 new residents so far, could have a favorable impact on the Rockford population count, he said.

The Rockford population in 2010 was 152,871. The 3.1 percent reduction estimated by the Census Bureau would bring it down to 148,278.

The Joliet population in the 2010 census was 147,483. The additional 1,962 people counted in the special census would bring it to 149,395.

Joliet Economic Development Director Steve Jones said he expects the city’s population to increase even more.

“I would be surprised if we were not over 150,000 by the 2020 Census, Jones said.

The city issued 250 residential building permits in 2016 that would not have been included in the special census, he noted.

The city issued 228 residential building permits in 2015 and 129 in 2014.

The Census Bureau’s 2015 estimate for Joliet was a 0.2 percent increase in population to 147,861, reflecting an upward trend.

Jones said he expected the trend of new home construction to continue, leading to Joliet passing the 150,000 population mark.

He, however, also said nothing is official until the 2020 census.

“It will take 2020 because that’s the equalizer,” Jones said. “That’s when everyone’s measured at the same time, and they’re no longer estimates.”

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CENSUS COUNTS

JOLIET POPULATION
2010 Census: 147,433
2015 Census Estimate: 147,861 (up 0.2 percent)
2016 Special Census: 1,962 more people counted

ROCKFORD POPULATION
2010 Census: 152,871
2015 Census Estimate: 148,278 (down 3.1 percent)

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