Three out of the top 10 fastest-growing municipalities in the state are from western York County, according to 2007 Census estimates released last week.
McConnells, Clover and Smyrna were the third-, sixth-, and ninth-fastest growing towns, respectively. McConnells saw a 7.1 percent increase over last year's numbers, while Clover's population increased 6 percent and Smyrna's by 5.5 percent.
The numbers, however, are simply statistics.
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.
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The actual population in Smyrna went up by just four people, from 72 in 2006 to 76 in 2007.
McConnells added 23 new residents, going from 323 in 2006 to 346 in 2007.
Clover's population jumped from 4,410 to 4,678 in a year.
"The Census update has confirmed what Clover residents have known for a long time," Town Administrator Allison Harvey said. "We are growing and we see it in the schools, while driving around town, at our businesses and in our churches."
Harvey said there are multiple factors contributing to Clover's growth.
"We are close to everything but still maintain a rural mindset that so many people want," she said. "The Clover School district is also a big draw for our area. Excellence in academics and athletics -- did I mention the multiple state championships won last year? -- is a winning combination."
Other Western County towns also fared well.
• Hickory Grove went from 390 to 407, coming in 16th
• Sharon, at No. 18, went from 469 to 488
• York, at No. 19, went from 7,443 to 7,735.
County is No. 1
Fort Mill and Rock Hill also were on the Top 10 list, meaning York County municipalities boasts of half of the top 10 spots.
The county, in fact, was the No. 1 fastest growing county in the state, 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 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. York County picked up 10,395 people, bringing its population to 208,827.
According to Census estimates, all major cities and towns in the Charlotte region grew between July 2006 and July 2007.
But with the increase comes challenges.
Area school systems must find ways to accommodate the influx of new students.
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."
-- The Herald and Charlotte Observer contributed