Census shows Fairbanks saw slow growth

Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Fairbanks grew at about half the statewide rate during the past decade, making it the slowest-growing urban area in Alaska, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough grew 6.6 percent to 82,840 people.

That compared with 15 percent growth in the Municipality of Anchorage, almost 50 percent for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and almost 22 percent for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Statewide, the population grew by 14 percent, to 627,000.

Janet Davison, with the Fairbanks borough's Community Research Center, said the area's growth was hampered by declines in the local military population. Army personnel declined by 10.4 percent during the past decade while Air Force personnel dropped 15.5 percent. The Army has about 4,000 personnel at Fort Wainwright now, and Eielson Air Force Base has about 2,800.

Greg Williams, state demographer with the Alaska Department of Labor in Juneau, said he also suspects that the Census Bureau undercounted the number of University of Alaska Fairbanks students.

''They did the count very near finals and they may not have wanted to disturb the students,'' Williams said. ''That's something that will take some time to look into.''

While the borough grew, the population in the city of Fairbanks dropped by 2 percent, to 30,224.

Williams said the shrinking-core trend may not be unique to Fairbanks, but the general data for other cities in Alaska don't reflect it as clearly because they are unified municipalities.

''Most of the growth is around the suburban ring, which makes a comparison to Juneau and Anchorage difficult,'' Williams said.

That difference in the data leads to a curious phenomenon in one of the Census Bureau tables. The ''Juneau city and borough'' is now the second-largest ''incorporated place'' in Alaska, according to the Census Bureau, surpassing ''Fairbanks city'' by about 500 people.

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