El Paso County is a magnet even among the other fast-growing counties along Colorado’s Front Range, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
El Paso County’s population rose the most in 2017, increasing by 12,526 people, followed by Weld County with 10,390 people and Denver County with 9,844 people, the state demographer said in a Thursday news release.
While the figure is above average for annual growth in El Paso County, it isn’t necessarily surprising, said local economist Tom Binnings. In recent years, El Paso County has been among the top counties in the state when it comes to rises in population, he said.
"We can count on 10,000 new people every year regardless of the economy," said Binnings, a senior partner at Summit Economics.
While Denver remains the Colorado county with the highest population – 704,621 people – El Paso County is close behind with 699,232 people, according to the news release.
State population forecasts show that El Paso County could initially surpass Denver in population in 2020. The two counties are expected to alternate as Colorado’s largest county until 2035, when El Paso County is expected to take the lead for good, State Demographer Elizabeth Garner told The Gazette in a November email after the forecasts were released.
By 2050, Denver is expected to reach 952,000 people to El Paso County’s 1,076,000 people, Garner said.
A little more than half of the growth that El Paso County experienced last year was a result of an increase in migration, meaning more people moved into the county than out of it. The remainder was due to a natural increase – more people were born than died.
Local experts have offered a variety of theories for the population rise El Paso County has seen in recent years, from high quality of life to low property taxes.
Binnings and El Paso County Assessor Steve Schleiker both said that spillover from the Denver area is a factor.
The northern and eastern parts of the county, such as Monument and Falcon, are growing rapidly because housing prices are low relative to other parts of the Front Range.
"Folks are moving here and building or buying homes for cheaper than they could north of Monument Hill, but they’re still doing the commute north up I-25," Schleiker said.
The outdoor recreation opportunities in the Pikes Peak Region add to the appeal, Schleiker said.
"A lot of folks just really like where we’re at with trails, open space, parks," he said.
The county also attracts veterans, military retirees and young families, Binnings said.
Other Colorado counties that experienced the largest gains in population last year include Douglas County with an increase of 7,577 people, Arapahoe County with an increase of 6,103 people and Adams County with an increase of 5,772 people.
Rising populations in counties along the Front Range represented 85 percent of the state’s growth in 2017.
Contact Rachel Riley: 636-0108