HARTINGTON — The U.S. Census numbers for 2020 are in and city officials here were shocked to see a population decline.
Hartington city clerk Natalie Schaecher, and Hartington Economic Development Coordinator Miranda Becker were disheartened to see that Hartington’s population took a small dip in the last 10 years, going from a reported 1,554 residents in 2010 to 1,517 residents in 2020 - a loss of 37.
“I can’t explain it,” Schaecher said. “I thought it would’ve been up that amount, instead of down.”
Cedar County overall experienced a population loss as well, losing five percent of its residents over the last decade.
It could be that the decline is just due to the natural lifecycle, Becker said, with not enough new residents moving into the community to offset those older residents who are passing away.
People are also choosing to have smaller families which may affect the numbers, she said.
But school enrollment is up and people are buying new homes, Schaecher said.
In fact, people are having a hard time finding places to live in the community, Becker said.
One thing is certain: The population decline is not due to lack of effort to attract new people and businesses to the community, Becker said.
“We’ve had a ton of new businesses in the last five years — we’ve had 20 either new businesses or changes in ownership,” she said.
The city has also utilized LB840 from sales tax collections for economic development funding in the last 15 years — granting nearly $400,000 in zero-interest loans for new or existing business development.
The city has also increased its use of social media, including Instagram and You Tube to “move into the new digital age,” Becker said.
Becker and Schaecher both know people who have moved back to the area to raise families. There are also stories of people who move to town from other parts of the country that have no connection to the area at all.
Becker said she knows of one person who was driving from North Dakota to Nebraska to check out the campus of University of Nebraska-Lincoln and made a stop in Hartington. It was that one encounter that solidified that she wanted to move to town, Becker said.
There are also people who moved to town from other states, wanting to leave urban areas and enjoy a rural lifestyle.
Why those success stories and the city’s efforts don’t translate into the census numbers has Schaecher scratching her head.
“I am bewildered,” she said. “I thought we were a growing community.”
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