Washington City Hall

With the release of city-specific census data more than 200 days away, officials in Washington, Pacific and St. Clair are optimistic that results will show stable population growth. 

“We would expect to see some moderate growth,” said Steve Roth, Pacific city administrator. The 2010 census showed the city with 7,002 residents, up from the 5,482 residents in 2000. Current population estimates show the city with 7,229 residents.  “A population decline would be surprising, but so would a big number of population growth.” 

According to the Census Bureau, the federal government plans to release the city-specific data in mid-December. The government released the statewide population totals earlier this week. 

Missouri, according to the census, grew in population by 2.8 percent. Other states, including neighboring Illinois, saw population decline by less than 1 percent.

The results of the 2020 Census are significant as they are used for redistricting purposes. For example, Illinois will lose one of its congressional seats in 2022, but Montana gained a second seat in Congress. Missouri’s congressional delegation of eight seats in the U.S. House of Representatives remains unchanged. 

The census also has financial ramifications for states. Missouri receives about $1,300 annually per year for each individual counted in the 2010 census, according to the Missouri Foundation for Health. That means the state will lose out on $1,300 per year — for the next 10 years — for each person not counted.

The results are equally important to cities and schools, as the federal government uses the results to determine how to allocate billions of dollars in federal programs, including funding for road and bridge projects, Medicare, Medicaid, Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), block grants, school breakfast and lunch programs, senior centers, food pantries and foster care.  

“I’m very bullish about the future of Pacific,” Roth said. “We are very well positioned as a city and are in a corridor of growth.” 

St. Clair Mayor Cozy Bailey said she is expecting to see her city’s population hold steady at 4,700 residents, with employers like Plaze, an aerosol company, and Ozark Die Casting having helped the economy recover following the 2009 closure of the Chrysler automotive plant in Fenton. 

“When Chrysler shut down, that impacted us pretty heavily,” Bailey said. 

Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy agreed, saying that residents in her city also were adversely impacted by the plant’s closure with high unemployment. 

Bailey said St. Clair has spent much of the past 10 years trying to recover from those job losses. Although her expectations are tempered for the 2020 census, Bailey is hopeful for the future of St. Clair thanks to the development of the city’s former airport, new industries and residential growth. 

“We are right along the Interstate 44 corridor with three exits. If we haven’t grown as a city over the next 10 years, then we have done something wrong,” Bailey said. The city plans to develop its 80-acre former airport property with a mix of residential, commercial and industrial zones. 

Lucy said she expects to see more substantial growth in Washington’s results compared to the 2010 census, which showed the city had grown by only about 600 people. 

According to the Census Bureau, Washington has a population of 13,892 per the 2010 census, and current estimates put it at 14,081. 

Lucy said she would “be extremely happy” to see the city’s population reach or topple the 15,000 threshold. During the 2000s, the city’s population grew by more than 23.7 percent, increasing from 10,704 to 13,243. 

The growth in Washington is largely being powered by job opportunities in the city’s industrial park and growing commercial centers, Lucy said. 

“In the last few years, the city has also made more of an effort to attract young people back to the community,” Lucy said, referencing the City Council’s decision to modify property zoning regulations and make it easier to build higher-density apartments. “It has allowed our community to be more open to growth opportunities.”