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Proximity Matters: Close, but Not Too Close

Associate Director, Indiana Business Research Center, Kelley School of Business, Indiana University

Surprise, Arizona, probably isn’t surprised that it is the fastest growing city in the United States (of cities and towns with 20,000 or more population as of April 2000). This charmingly named city had a population of 30,848 in April of 2000, but by July 2005 had grown to nearly 75,000 (see Table 1). Perhaps some of the folks in Surprise are surprised, since it is seeing 8,800 new residents each year and experienced a 141 percent increase over the five-year period.

Table 1
Top 20: A Five-Year Fast Track—Cities and Towns That Began with a Population of 20,000 or More in April 2000

Table 1

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When considering the fastest growing (in percentage change terms) cities and towns, the vast majority of those in the top 500 are located in the southern and western areas of the United States (see Figure 1). But there are also some places on the fast track in the Midwest.

Figure 1
Top 500 Fastest Growing Cities and Towns, 2000 to 2005*

Figure 1

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Consider the 500 fastest growing cities and towns between 2000 and 2005. A mere 69 had populations of 100,000 at the beginning of that time period. Contrast that with the 361 cities and towns that began the five-year period with populations less than 50,000.

Such growth provides demographic evidence of the continued concentration of population within metropolitan areas, but that concentration is brought about by people moving to smaller places within those metropolitan counties. It is important to note that most of these smaller towns and cities are in close proximity to large metropolitan areas. Table 2 shows the twenty largest cities nationwide. While many of America’s large industrial-age cities, such as Detroit, Chicago, Gary and others, have seen declines in population during the five years since the last census in 2000, those same cities remain vital as the core of metropolitan areas, with significant growth sprouting up around them. The choice being made more often these days is that of living close to those large cities, just not within the city limits.

Table 2
Largest Cities in the United States

Table 2