Two Louisiana parishes-St. Bernard and Orleans-topped the U.S. Census Bureau's list of the fastest-growing counties in the country in 2007. St. Bernard, which is located next to New Orleans, saw its population jump by 42.9 percent. Orleans Parish, which includes the city of New Orleans, reported a 13.8 percent increase.
Admittedly, the number of people involved is relatively small. St. Bernard's increase adds up to roughly 6,000 more people and a total population of 19,826. Orleans' gain translates into approximately 29,000 more residents for a total of 239,124 people within its boundaries.
In contrast, Arizona's Maricopa County welcomed 101,583 new residents in 2007, making it the county with the highest numerical population growth, according to the Census.
But the level of activity that these new statistics represent in Southeast Louisiana is significant indeed. "St. Bernard, pound-for-pound, was more gravely devastated than just about anywhere else in New Orleans. There had been 68,000 people living there and about 20,000-odd housing units. It was something like three [homes] went unscathed," says Jon Luther, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans. As a result, the Census growth findings "don't surprise me at all, because there was such a complete wipeout of the population."
Slowly, though, former Louisianans are returning to their homes. Infrastructure is being rebuilt. Insurance settlements and "Road Home" funds are being disbursed, allowing residents to rebuild or renovate damaged properties. "People finally have enough information about their financial status to start making some decisions," Luther says.
The housing situation remains difficult, with many living in apartments, damaged homes, tents, motor homes, and, more than two years after Katrina, FEMA travel trailers. Earlier this week, St. Bernard parish government urged residents in trailers to find alternate housing because of predicted strong winds.
Such obstacles don't seem to deter the people of Southeast Louisiana, though.
"I don't mean to be facetious, but there's something in the water here," says Luther, who ironically moved to Louisiana to be closer to his wife's family just three weeks before Katrina. "There's something about this place that draws you in. Those who are natives know what they had, and now after the storm, they see the potential as well."
The list of the 10 fastest-growing counties includes:
St. Bernard, La. 42.9%
Orleans, La. 13.8%
Pinal, Ariz. 11.5%
Kendall, Ill. 10.6%
Rockwall, Texas 8.2%
Flagler, Fla. 7.2%
Forsyth, Ga. 7.2%
Union, N.C. 7.2%
Jackson, Ga. 6.7%
Paulding, Ga. 6.7%
For a list of the 100 fastest-growing counties in the U.S., visit www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/population/011635.html.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: New Orleans, LA.