White Pine population won’t match projected state 10-year growth

The Nevada State Demographer’s Office released its population estimates for Nevada’s counties for 2013 to 2032 last week.

“As our state recovers, people should bear in mind that Nevada was hit by three economic factors in the last decade: the housing bubble, the spike in fuel prices and the financial crisis,” State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said. “Even so, we grew by 35 percent from 2000 to 2010. Currently we are projecting our state will continue to grow decade to decade at a rate slightly above the projected national rate. From 2010 to 2020 Nevada will grow at 9.6 percent compared to a national forecast of 8.1 percent for example.”

Statewide, Nevada is projected to grow by 529,322 people during the next two decades. While the state is projected to grow by more than half a million people over the next 20 years, the projections aren’t as positive for White Pine County.

White Pine County, which had a population of 9,945 in 2012 according to the report, is expected to see its population stay roughly stagnate through 2032. The report projects growth through the year 2016 with a peak population of 10,342 before falling in population each year after that to a projected population of 9,136 in 2032.

White Pine County Community and Economic Director Jim Garza said he disagrees with the population projections for White Pine County.

“I have reviewed the State Demographer’s forecasts and disagree with his 20-year projections because I don’t believe enough data and outreach took place from their office to compile a more complete forecast,” Garza said. “He has based his opinion on the “known” expected life spans of the mining properties in our market today. He is not taking into consideration information regarding growth plans the operators may have that must remain confidential at this time. He is not taking into consideration the confidential projects that are under discussion with the (Bureau of Land Management) and USDA Forest Service Office that could become permit applications in the near future.”

Garza said without taking into consideration these projects, it’s difficult to make an accurate population projection for the county.

“Just with the known EIS decisions coming forward in the near future and allowing the operators to extend mine life spans once they actually dig into the ground and uncover the unknown, how can you show a decrease in population knowing so many projects moving forward,” Garza said.

The projections for Nevada’s 17 counties are based on 2012 estimates and the Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI). Among the aspects considered in the projections include how soon employment will recover, what kind of jobs will make up any employment recovery, how mobile is labor, what infrastructure is needed to support growth in the state and what capacity is there to fund that infrastructure.

Hardcastle said he considered the historic relationship between the state’s economy and demographic composition of the state and how it relates to national changes and changes in counties throughout the state. Hardcastle also reviewed economic activity across the state and uses other forecasting models as well.

Although the State Demographer’s projections sees White Pine County’s population falling in the next 20 years, Garza said there are still a lot of factors that could buck those projections.

“Don’t just consider the mining industry,” Garza said. “What about the growth within government offices, renewable energy, biomass, oil and gas exploration? How do you account for those population growth patterns? I had a chance to speak with the State Demographer during the drafting stage and made my comments and some changes were implemented for the better, but only time will tell what direction population growth has in White Pine County.”

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