York County's growth rate blew past 5 percent between 2006 and 2007 -- faster than any other county in the state and more quickly than it has grown since the turn of the twentieth century.
York County is surging, according to 2007 Census estimates released this week, despite the national housing market collapse and a sluggish economy that has cooled and in some cases reversed growth in many South Carolina counties.
It's an indication of the Carolinas' continued growth, especially in the Charlotte area.
"It didn't surprise me," York County Manager Jim Baker said. "Charlotte is a dynamic, growing metro area, and we're getting the bleed-over from it.
"It signifies that the economy here is good ... We're going to be one of the areas in the country to see that kind of growth."
York County's 5.2 percent growth rate was up from 4.8 percent between 2005 and 2006 -- a rate that ranked as S.C.'s fourth-fastest that year.
According to Census estimates, all major cities and towns in the Charlotte region grew between July 2006 and July 2007. Fort Mill's population jumped 7 percent, ranking it second in the state to Bluffton's 10 percent leap. Four other York County muncipalities joined Fort Mill among S.C.'s 10 fastest-growing cities -- Clover, Smyrna and Rock Hill.
The Census Bureau distinguishes between growth rate and numbers of people. Charlotte, for example, grew by only 3 percent. But it gained an estimated 17,471 people, ranking it ninth among U.S. cities in the number of new residents.
York County picked up 10,395 people, bringing its population to 208,827.
But with the increase comes challenges.
Area school systems must find ways to accommodate the influx of new students.
Fort Mill schools, for example, will open two new elementary campuses -- Sugar Creek Elementary off Farm House Road and Pleasant Knoll Elementary off Pleasant Road -- in August 2009.
They'll ease crowded conditions at the district's five elementaries -- three of which have capped enrollment.
"All of our elementary schools ... will be overburdened this year," Fort Mill Schools superintendent Keith Callicutt said.
Another challenge, local economic leaders say, is to manage residential growth along with commercial and industrial growth, because the latter generates more tax revenue.
"We have to find that balance," said Mark Farris, York County's economic development director. "We cannot become a bedroom community of Charlotte, because we won't be able to fund adequate levels of community services."