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Metro Toledo area drops to 79th in size in U.S.

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The Toledo metropolitan area slipped from the 77th largest metro area in the country in 2008 to 79th last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's latest population estimates.

The area consisting of Lucas, Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties lost 1,125 people, the eighth-highest loss of population out of 366 metro areas nationwide, according to the census bureau.

Not surprisingly, other old industrial cities also crowded the top of the list, including Cleveland, Dayton, Detroit, and Flint.

Less predictably, Toledo's decline was bracketed by that of several Florida metro areas that typically have been growing.

Peter Ujvagi, Lucas County administrator, said the population drop could have been worse.

"If you consider the economic conditions we're under, we pretty well maintained where we're at," he said. "Our job is going to be to stabilize population and increase population in the future."

He said Florida is experiencing a worse economic crisis than Ohio because its tax structure was based on that state's "unsustainable growth."

"Part of the issue very clearly is that there are limited opportunities for people to move, but that also gives us the opportunity to be able to work on job creation and retention to keep people here," said Mr. Ujvagi, who until last week was a member of the Ohio General Assembly.

In percentage terms, metro

Toledo's estimated population fell 0.17 percent, from 673,345 people for 2008 to 672,220 for 2009.

Most of the population loss in the Toledo region occurred in Lucas County, where the decline was estimated at 1,445, from 464,938 to 463,493.

Wood County increased in estimated population by 391, from 124,989 to 125,380.

Fulton and Ottawa counties' populations dipped slightly from 42,429 to 42,402 in Fulton County and from 40,989 to 40,945 in Ottawa County.

The Columbus metro area saw the largest metro growth in Ohio at 1.2 percent.

The biggest population loser was the Detroit-Warren-Livonia metro area, with an estimated decline of 20,344 from about 4.4 million people in the 2008 estimate, a drop of 0.5 percent. It remained the 11th largest metro area in the country.

Flint, Mich., and Youngstown, Cleveland, and Dayton metro areas followed Detroit, with Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla., ranking sixth and seventh, with losses of 1,801 and 1,454 respectively.

The Toledo area ranked eighth in population loss, followed by Fort Walton Beach-Crestview-Destin, Fla., which dropped 1,056 residents.

The new metro Toledo estimate for the first time includes the extra people that former Mayor Carty Finkbeiner successfully fought the Census Bureau to add to its estimated population in 2008. The census bureau's estimate for every year since 2000 shows an increase from the estimates released last year.

The 2008 estimate was bumped up by 24,241 people and the 2007 estimate was increased by 24,581. The previous years were also increased, but by lower numbers, to an increase of 4,374 in 2001 and 22 for 2000.

Calvin Lawshe, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Plan Commissions and co-chairman of Toledo's 2010 Everyone Counts Committee, said a reduced population is never good.

"If our population is declining it's going to mean a number of things, all problematic," Mr. Lawshe said.

Federal grants, such as the annual Housing and Urban Development block grants, are based on the annual estimates. Those estimates will be superseded by the 2010 census head count, which is now under way.

Congressional districts also are based on population.

"We're working with the census office in getting this word out so we don't have to do this challenge game. We want to get a complete count," Mr. Lawshe said.

That means getting people in "hard-to-count areas" to fill out the form so Toledo gets as accurate a count as possible.

Population estimates are educated guesses based on government reports such as births and deaths, and domestic and international migration.

Latest estimates also show that more older Americans are staying put in traditional big cities to hold onto jobs, which is creating slowdowns in population growth at once-popular retirement destinations in the South and West.

The annual growth of retirement-destination counties declined from 3.1 percent between 2000 and 2007 to 1.7 percent between 2007 and 2009, despite the large contingent of baby boomers who are reaching retirement age, estimates show.

Information from The Blade's news services was used in this report.

Contact Tom Troy at:

tomtroy@theblade.com

or 419-724-6058.

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