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County’s population continues to decline

For the third straight year, Warren County has lost population.

It’s the fifth time in the six years since the last census was conducted in 2010 that the county has lost residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau population estimates for 2016, released in late March.

The Census Bureau estimates that Warren County experienced a net population loss of 402 residents from 2015 to 2016 when births, deaths and immigration are taken into account.

Overall, Warren County has experienced an estimated net decrease of 1,633 residents since the 2010 census was conducted.

With the renewed cooperation between the city of Vicksburg’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Warren County Board of Supervisors and the Vicksburg Warren School District, along with the hiring of new Economic Development Director Pablo Diaz, community leaders expect the negative population trend to reverse in the coming years.

“I admit that we did lose some traction the last four of five years, but I think we have been able to create an environment that is conducive to living in Vicksburg,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “There is greater collaboration between all the entities now. We are all on the same page. I think that is going to speak to the influx of people coming back into the city.”

Board of Supervisors president Richard George added, “It is going to take a little time, but [Diaz] is an energetic, intelligent individual and practical individual so I think we are going to be all right.”

Flaggs added that in recent years the city has been very proactive in recruiting new residents to live within the city limits, because the population determines the type of federal grants the city could receive.

“We have been aggressively pursuing people to live in the city of Vicksburg,” Flaggs said. “It is my goal, we have to exceed the 25,000 population in order to qualify for most of your federal grants. When you are under 25,000, you are considered rural as opposed to urban.”

The Warren County Board of Supervisors recently approved funding for a new academic building at Hinds Community College Vicksburg Warren Campus with the intent of improving the local workforce. Richard George expressed optimism that the county is heading in the right direction.

“We promote industry and business as much as we can for growth to improve the plight of the employees and further job opportunities,” he said.

The negative population trend is not unique to Warren County. Of the 82 counties in Mississippi, only 25 had a projected population increase from 2015 to 2016, and 10 of those 25 had a projected increase of less than 100 residents.

The two counties with the most projected growth were Desoto County, with a projected net increase of 2,399, and Harrison County, with a projected net increase of 2,272.

The county with the largest project decrease in population was Hinds County with a projected net loss of 2,005.

Local leaders say they think Warren County will soon become one of the counties that is consistently experiencing growth.

“Vicksburg is much more competitive now than it was four or five years ago,” Flaggs said. “I think you are going to see some population explosion in Vicksburg.

“I think we have a pathway to increase the number in the next year or two. I think we are going to have a shift in population growth in the next two to three years because of all the things going on in Vicksburg.”