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Census Finds Rochester Grows 24 Percent Since 2000

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Mayo Clinic Gonda Building (credit: Mayo Clinic)

Mayo Clinic Gonda Building (credit: Mayo Clinic)

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — The third largest city in Minnesota is now Rochester, which has grown 24 percent since 2000 to nearly 106,700, surpassing Duluth, according to the latest numbers of the 2010 Census.

The city best known as the home of the Mayo Clinic has the fastest growing population of the state’s major cities. The other cities in the top five — Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Bloomington — all slightly shrunk.

Rochester added nearly 21,000 people between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, more people than any other city in the state, although some Twin Cities suburbs reported larger growth rates.

“We should calculate at what point we pass St. Paul,” said Phil Wheeler, director of the Rochester Olmsted Planning Department, with a smile.

The Mayo Clinic was driving the growth. The health care center is responsible for many of the 9,000 health care jobs added in the city in the past 10 years, and its growth ripples through the community.

“When a shoe manufacturer adds 300 jobs, they don’t get a whole lot of visitors,” said Wheeler. “When the clinic adds 9,000 jobs that entails mostly people coming here.”

Those people use the city’s hotels and restaurants, he said. “The hospitality industry is tied largely to the clinic,” said Wheeler.

That growth also means more children, so while some school districts are closing schools, Rochester opened a new elementary school and may need a new middle school. “We could do a lot worse,” Wheeler said.

State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said he thought the trend would continue. “My expectation is that is going to continue on, and I am not seeing anything that is really going to threaten that growth,” he said.

Like many other Minnesota cities, Rochester grew more diverse. The census data show the city population was 82 percent white in 2010, down from 87 percent in 2000. Nearly 9,000 more blacks, Asians and Hispanics lived in the city in 2010 than 2000.

Gillaspy noted Rochester’s health care industry made the city more resistant to the recession than most.

“You can give up a lot of things during the recession when the money is tight, but giving up life-saving health care services may not be the first thing you give up,” he said. “There is a certain advantage to that.”

In Duluth, which lost 653 people in the past 10 years, Mayor Don Ness said the lack of growth would make his goal of 90,000 residents by 2020 even harder. It now stands at just under 87,000.

He said the region in creating jobs and some of the outlying cities made significant population gains in the 2010 Census.

“The challenge to Duluth is to make this very specific case of why people should live within the city limits,” Ness said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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