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Some Rust Belt Areas Growing Again With PM-Metro America-Table, PM-Metro America-Box

March 18, 1993

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Population growth in some once-burgeoning Sun Belt cities has declined while the so-called Rust Belt of the industrial North is making a modest recovery, Census Bureau figures show.

Growth has slackened in Orlando, Dallas, Phoenix and Qan Diego, among other recent boom towns, according to the bureau’s 1991 population estimates, released Wednesday.

Cincinnati and Chicago, meanwhile, were among the areas with quickened growth, and some places, such as Detroit and Pittsburgh, returned to growth after a decade of decline.

Planners North and South welcomed the emerging balance.

″Frankly, I think the community perceives a bit of a slowdown as a plus right now,″ said Ron Thibodeaux, executive vice president of the Economic Development Commission of Mid-Florida in Orlando. ″It’s tough to keep the community services up to speed with that kind of growth, so every once in awhile it’s nice to catch your breath.″

Orlando still had the fastest population growth of the 41 metropolitan areas with 1 million people or more. The population increased by 3.6 percent, but that was down sharply from the 5.2 percent a year central Florida saw in the 1980s.

Cincinnati tripled the pace of population growth, from a bare half a percent a year on average during the 1980s, to 1.4 percent from July 1990 to July 1991.

″There’s been a movement back due to the fact that we are a manufacturing center,″ said Joe Kramer, vice president of economic development at the Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. ″I think some companies find pure service economies, which some Southern cities are, don’t fit their corporate lifestyles. They need suppliers, and they need service companies that understand manufacturing.″

Fast growth has dimmed the Sun Belt’s low-tax, cheap-living advantage, said William O’Hare, population and policy research director at the University of Louisville’s Urban Research Center.

″To some extent, as they grew and became major metropolitan areas, they began to suffer the same problems as their Northern counterparts,″ O’Hare said.

Also, people had less reason to move from the North because there were fewer jobs in the South and West to attract them, O’Hare said.

In the early 1990s in the Sun Belt, growth in Dallas declined by about a third, to 2.4 percent; in Phoenix, down by nearly half, to 2.2 percent; and in San Diego, down by a third, to 2 percent.

In the North, Chicago’s growth increased six times, to 1.2 percent. Detroit and Pittsburgh went from declines of less than 1 percent a year to an increase of about half a percent.

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