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St. Croix County demographics changing dramatically

New data out from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows a dramatic change in the population demographics for St. Croix County.

After decades of high growth and high wage earners moving into our area, the trend has abruptly changed.

Since 2010, the number of people aged 35 – 54, the age group with high wages and families, has dropped by 9%. Meanwhile, the number of people aged 65 and over has increased 17%. The data is for a two-year period ending July 1, 2012.

Overall population growth has risen 1% since 2010, compared to a 34% growth in population in the previous decade.

By comparison, the number of people in St. Croix County aged 45-54 grew 53% in the last decade, while those aged 65 and over grew at only an annualized rate of 4% a year between 2000 and 2010.

“Our area is not unique,” notes nationally known futurist William A. Draves of River Falls. “The U.S. Census Bureau reported last year that suburbs are now growing more slowly than central cities. And housing experts say suburbs will become increasingly less prosperous."

Draves and Julie Coates predicted these changes in their book “Nine Shift: Work, life and education in the 21st Century,” this year celebrating the 10th anniversary of its first printing.

In 2010 they made national news with their discovery that Gen Y is driving less, the story being covered by Forbes, Kiplinger, Advertising Age, Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic, Yahoo News and other media.

“Business and professional people, especially younger professionals, are moving back into the city to save time and be close to light rail and trains. National housing experts say the only suburbs that are growing are those with a train station,” Draves reports.

He is working with over 50 other citizens in River Falls, Hudson, New Richmond and Ellsworth to get a train station in Hudson for our area.

“Without a train station here, our area will continue to become less prosperous.  The new St. Croix River Bridge will bring in some new residents, but they will be less prosperous than the people leaving,” Dravis predicts.

As evidence, he cites data showing the percent of housing units in St. Croix County that is rental property moved up from 20.4% in 2008 to 22.0% in 2012.

Draves revealed the data and made his comments in a public program on the future of trains at the River Falls Public Library last week. He is president of the Learning Resources Network (LERN), the largest continuing education association in the world, and headquartered in River Falls.

Draves and Coates will celebrate the tenth anniversary of their book with a speech in San Francisco Nov. 23, after which they will take the train back home.