In the next 22 years the population of Carroll County is projected to grow by between 36.8 and 38.9 percent, to between 35,793 and 36,334 people, according to figures released recently by the Center for Business Economic Research of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
That estimated increase is equivalent to adding slightly more than the combined populations of Green Forest, Berryville and Eureka Springs.
At the same time, the Northwest Arkansas counties, consisting of Baxter, Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Scott, Searcy, Sebastian and Washington, is projected to add nearly a half-million residents, for a growth rate of 60.6 percent.
According to research director Jeffrey T. Collins, Benton County will likely surpass Washington County as the state's second most populous county this year. By 2025, Benton County's population is projected to range between 382,009 and 411,270.
The state's population is expected to surpass 3 million by 2015, and by 2025 the proportion living in the Northwest planning area is projected to increase from the present 28.8 percent to 36 percent, Collins stated. Carroll County's population has more than doubled since 1969, with a sharp rise between 1989 and 1996.
The population in 2002 was estimated at 26,166.
Overall, the state's population is expected to increase by 28.4 percent by 2025, with increases of 29.3 percent in central Arkansas, 10.6 percent in northeast Arkansas, and 9.8 percent in southwest Arkansas. In southeast Arkansas, the population is projected to decline by 5.2 percent by 2025. That shift in population will likely mean redistricting of Arkansas' U.S. congressional districts after the 2010 census, and possibly an additional seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The UofA figures reinforce the announcement in June that the Northwest Arkansas Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is the fasting growing metropolitan area in the United States. In addition, the Northwest Arkansas MSA was expanded to include McDonald County, Mo., and Madison County.
With Carroll County now bordering two of the counties in the MSA, Benton and Madison counties, the "spillover effect" is expected to be greater than in other counties in the Northwest Planning Region.
With the projected growth will come heightened concerns about environment, law enforcement, housing, and planning. While the Northwest Arkansas MSA's number one ranking is partly due to faltering economies in other MSA's, long-range prospects for the region are good. For decades, the economy of Benton and Washington counties has been resistant to extremes in both economic declines and upswings.
Wal-Mart, the region's economic power base, instituted a policy in the early 1990s requiring its vendors to have salesmen based in the Bentonville area. That policy is believed to have contributed largely to the population growth, as well as the rapid growth of services at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at Highfill.