Suffolk population skyrockets

Published 10:51 pm Thursday, February 3, 2011

Suffolk’s population skyrocketed between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

The city’s 2010 population was pegged at 84,585, up from 63,677. The astronomical growth rate of 32.8 percent outpaced most other localities in the state.

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The numbers were hardly surprising, though. Yearly estimates during the decade showed the population steadily increasing, first surpassing the 80,000 mark in 2006.

“I think that’s a good thing,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson said Thursday. “I think we’re doing well.”

She added the quality of life in Suffolk is what is drawing people to the city.

“There’s a lot to do,” she said. “It’s just a nice place to be.”

The city overtook Lynchburg since 2000 to move into the top 10 most populated independent cities in the state. The cities’ populations were roughly equal a decade ago, but Lynchburg grew only by about 10,000 people.

Suffolk was preceded on the top 10 list by, in order, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Richmond, Newport News, Alexandria, Hampton, Roanoke and Portsmouth. Both Hampton and Portsmouth lost residents during the decade. Virginia Beach’s population is now nearly 438,000.

The largest county in the state is Fairfax, with a population of 1.08 million. The top 12 counties are larger in population size than Suffolk.

Racial data in Suffolk showed an interesting trend. The percentages of whites and blacks decreased slightly, and the percentage of American Indians stayed the same. However, the percentages of Asians and those who reported two or more races nearly doubled.

The new data can be used to redraw federal, state and local legislative districts, taking into account population shifts since the 2000 census.

Johnson said she did not yet know how the process of redrawing Suffolk’s borough lines will go. She expects city staff to provide an overview of the process, timelines and guidelines at an upcoming meeting.