Regardless of what the federal Office of Management and Budget does relative to Rome’s standing as a Metropolitan Statistical Area, it’s going to be very interesting to see the numbers the U.S. Census Bureau releases as a result of the 2020 count.

There’s been a lot of talk — both in public and a lot more under the table in recent years — about growth, or the lack thereof, in Rome.

The 2010 Census indicated Floyd County’s population was at 96,317, which was up 6.5% from 2000 when the number was 90,565.

A decade earlier, in 1990, the Floyd population was at 81,252, so the decade of the ’90s added about 11.4%.

Does that data tell you something right off the bat? The rate of population growth slowed by nearly 50% from the ’90s to the first decade of the new millennium. If the naysayers are right and Floyd County doesn’t hit the magical 100,000 mark in the 2020 count, it will be somewhere in the range of 3.5% to 3.8%.

And I’m assuming there will be some growth. Heaven forbid that the count actually shrink.

With all that Rome has going for it, and THERE IS A LOT, somebody’s got to start asking some serious questions.

When I wrote the story last Saturday about Rome potentially losing its MSA status, one former county commissioner sent me an email that read: “Maybe they haven’t heard about all of our ‘quality of life’ goodies like golf courses, tennis complexes, baseball stadiums, Forums and, my personal favorite, the AG Center. They are attracting people and jobs like crazy!”

Some of the “quality of life” goodies have been cited by medical professionals as the reason they chose to come to Rome.

There are a lot of good things available and happening in Rome, so why isn’t the community growing like gangbusters.

Neighboring Bartow County saw 31.75% growth between 2000 and 2010, from 76,019 up to 100,157. Gordon County grew by 25.1%, from 44,104 to 55,186.

I-75 doesn’t run through Floyd County and, in contrast to what some have speculated through the years, highway planners never seriously considered a route for the interstate that did.

I think it will be very interesting to see if the urban sprawl that has been witnessed over the last couple of decades shows any sign of reversal in the new count. We’ve anecdotally, and visibly, witnessed a renaissance of inner city living in recent years.

Will the sprawl from Atlanta up and down I-75 and I-85, along with Ga. 400, be slowed down any?

More than 40 years ago, there was some evidence of urban sprawl right here in Rome. West Rome was probably the first to experience significant growth when Georgia Power’s Plant Hammond, General Electric and Georgia Kraft all opened mills out that way.

As West Rome filled in, about the time I got to Rome in 1984, we were starting to see a lot of residential growth up Armuchee way. Strangely enough, that was a large part of the reason the Pasquerilla family and their Crown American Corp. built Mount Berry Square mall where they did, to take advantage of all of the growth along the U.S. 27 North corridor.

We all know the mall never completely filled in and, in more recent years, the dominance of downtown Rome as the retail hub of the community has solidified — with new retail development popping up right on the fringe. Places like the RiverWalk development on Riverside Parkway, the razing of Riverbend Mall replaced by the Riverbend shopping center, and the new East Bend shopping center at Turner McCall Boulevard and Hicks Drive.

Infill development will become more and more difficult as time moves on, so Rome is ultimately going to have to experience some “urban sprawl” of its own to grow.

Where that will happen is up for grabs.

As one looks back over the last half century, it’s been easy to notice how communities have grown rapidly along bypasses. There has been relatively little development along the stretches of bypass that have opened in Rome. The section from Ga. 53 around to U.S. 27 has filled in some, but the East Bypass has one car dealership, a corner with a convenience store and little else.

Don’t even talk about the west side because a “by-pass” was funneled right into both a business and residential area of West Rome. They couldn’t go north because of the Berry College campus.

Rome clearly needs to recruit a new employer and folks have been working hard to do just that for years. It just hasn’t happened yet.

Some folks claim that a serious housing shortage could be compounding the problem. City and county officials are working diligently to try to remedy that.

Next time you’re on I-75, count the billboards promoting Dalton.

Personally, I think we’ve got to do more shouting from every rooftop about what a great place Rome and Floyd County is and how much it has to offer people of all different walks of life.

Associate Editor and business columnist Doug Walker is always looking for news and tips about area businesses. To contact Doug, email him at DWalker@RN-T.com or call 706-290-5272.

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