Saturday, March 10, 2001

Census shows SE Ind. growth

Casinos, city's reach do pushing

By Ken Alltucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Riverboat gambling and spillover from an expanding Cincinnati region has transformed Southeastern Indiana into one of the Hoosier State's fastest-growing areas.

        Fewer than a dozen Indiana counties added people at a quicker pace than Dearborn County from 1990 to 2000. This predominately white area has grown slightly more diverse since 1990, U.S. Census Bureau figures released Friday show.

    • Population, 46,109
    • White, 45,216, 98%
    • Black, 287, 0.6%
    • Native American/Alaska Native, 73, 0.2%
    • Asian, 122, 0.3%
    • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, 12 --
    • Other, 85, 0.2%
    • Biracial, 298, 0.6%
    • Multiracial (3 or more races identified), 16 --
    • Hispanic, 266, 0.6%*
    *Hispanic is an ethnic designation, not a racial one.
    Note: Percentages for racial categories do not add up to 100 percent because they are rounded.
    Source: U.S. Census Bureau
        Signs of growth are everywhere, said Vera Benning, a Dearborn County commissioner. She said home builders and new retailers like Bigg's are scrambling to capitalize on the area's growth and rejuvenated economy.

        “The (Argosy Casino) has really helped our unemployment,” said Ms. Benning. “There was a good bit of unemployment, but now the local papers are full of ads for jobs. The market is much better.”

        Though card games and slot machines have attracted a lot of attention, Ms. Benning said the county's real growth trigger has been Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky residents in pursuit of more land, bigger homes and a slower pace.

        Dearborn County's population grew 18.7 percent to 46,109 in 2000, much faster than neighboring Ohio County. Ohio County, Indiana's smallest with 5,315 residents, grew just 5.8 percent since 1990. The entire state grew 9.7 percent to more than 6 million residents.

        Indiana was one of the first states nationwide to receive the Census 2000 population and racial breakdowns. The Census Bureau plans to release similar data for Ohio next week, but hasn't announced a release date for Kentucky.

        The population counts released so far show the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, with racial minorities gaining on the white majority. Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group and are soon expected to pass African-Americans as the nation's largest minority group.

        Indiana's Hispanic population more than doubled to 215,000, and Dearborn saw anincrease in its Hispanic population. A total of 266 Dearborn County residents said they were Hispanic compared to 125 in 1990.

        Joan Morand, research analyst at Indiana University's Indiana Business Research Center, said actual growth and an increased effort to reach Hispanics during the count led to a higher total in Indiana and nationwide.

        “Everything points to the fact that Indiana is becoming more diverse,” said Ms. Morand, noting the state's Asian population also has soared.

        It's difficult to precisely measure racial changes because people had more choices in 2000 on how to identify their race. For the first time, a person could choose more than one race. A relatively small percentage of Hoosiers (1.2 percent) checked more than one racial category. An even smaller percentage chose this option in Dearborn and Ohio counties.

        Former Lawrenceburg Mayor Melvin L. Gabbard acknowledged that not everybody has welcomed change in Southeastern Indiana.

        Newer roads funded with casino-generated taxes means an easier commute for some but a traffic headache for others.

        “A lot of our older people didn't want the change,” said Mr. Gabbard, who believes anti-growth proponents helped cost him the city's mayoral election two years ago. “They just want their quiet little river town they're used to having.”

        Casino executives say it's unfair to tie the region's growth strictly to gambling.

        For instance, slightly fewer than half of Argosy's 2,404 employees at the end of 2000 lived in Indiana. Most commuted from Ohio and Northern Kentucky.

        “It (growth) might not have been a direct result of the riverboats, but the economic climate the boats provided,” said Gary Johnson, Argosy's director of marketing. “A good number of people we employed were already residents.”

        Argosy Casino is in Lawrenceburg Township, which added just 511 people over the decade for a population of 10,434. Rising Sun, home of Grand Victoria Casino, added fewer than 200 people to 2,470.

        “This was a very typical, sleepy riverfront town,” said Larry Buck, general manager of Grand Victoria. “Now there's a lot of money flowing through the city and surrounding communities. There is a noticeable improvement in quality of life.”

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