What's hot, what's not? A story of growth in Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Rock Hill, Chester

York County is adding to its population, as are Lancaster and Chester counties.
York County is adding to its population, as are Lancaster and Chester counties. jmarks@heraldonline.com

Fort Mill grew by more people than all other municipalities in York, Chester and Lancaster counties combined, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau numbers.

Indian Land is carrying the water for Lancaster County's chart-topping residential boom. And just down the interstate in Chester County, more people are leaving than coming.

The U.S. Census Bureau released new population estimates Thursday. Those figures show continued, surging growth on one side of the Catawba River, but dwindling numbers elsewhere.

What else did the estimates show?

South Carolina is the newest state with more than 5 million population. At 5,024,369 people, the Palmetto State is up 1 percent from 2016 and 9 percent since 2010. York and Lancaster counties both grew at about twice the state rate since 2010.

Chester County fell well below the state rate.

Yet much of what drives population growth in York County isn't about South Carolina at all. Charlotte has an estimated 859,035 people. Close proximity to Charlotte offers opportunities for jobs, plus shopping and other amenities.

The city of Charlotte's 2016-17 growth rate of 2 percent, a whopping 17 percent since 2010, puts it behind Lancaster and York counties -- along with more than a half dozen municipalities within them.

Here are key takeaways from the new census estimates:

This isn't your grandpa's Fort Mill

The town of Fort Mill grew to an estimated 17,557 people as of 2017. That's up more than 2,400 residents, or 16 percent, from the previous year. That's at least four times the growth rate of any other municipality in York, Lancaster and Chester counties.

The town has grown by more than 62 percent since the last full census in 2010. That's nearly twice what any other municipality in the tri-county area can boast in that time.

But there's more to Fort Mill than just the town.

Several high-population areas with Fort Mill mailing addresses — Baxter, the Carowinds Boulevard corridor, stretches connecting Fort Mill to Tega Cay or Indian Land — aren't in town limits. Those new residents are reflected in the 3 percent countywide year-to-year increase, which is higher than the growth rate in Rock Hill, Clover or York.

Tega Cay hits a new digit

For the first time, Tega Cay topped 10,000 residents in 2017.

That's a 36 percent increase since 2010, and a 4 percent bump from 2016.

Tega Cay's 2017 population puts it within 500 residents of where Fort Mill was at the 2010 census. Tega Cay, the fifth largest municipality in the tri-county area in 2010, is now third behind only Rock Hill and Fort Mill.

Chester County isn't losing folks anymore

Chester County didn't add many residents in a year, but still passed a milestone.

The 2017 estimate of 32,301 people — only 21 more than in 2016 — represents the first annual increase in residents since 2013. The bump came from unincorporated areas.

Only one of the five municipalities in Chester County added a resident. The Fort Lawn estimate is a single person higher than in 2016. Lowrys and Richburg had the same population counts as in 2016, while Chester and Great Falls dipped. The five municipalities combined to lose eight residents compared to 2016. Populations were down between 2 percent and 4 percent since 2010.

Chester County as a whole is down 3 percent since 2010.

Rock Hill, big as it ever was

Rock Hill is the largest municipality in York County at an estimated 73,068 residents. But the city doesn't have the same growth rate as its northern neighbors across the Catawba River. Rock Hill grew by less than 1,000 residents from 2016 to 2017. The city has grown 9 percent since the 2010 census.

Fort Mill added more total residents in a year than Rock Hill did the past two. Tega Cay's growth rate since 2010 is about four times what Rock Hill saw.

Still, Rock Hill is massive. The city has more residents than the remaining 18 tri-county municipalities combined, with roughly the population of Lancaster to spare. Rock Hill has more than twice the population of Chester County. Rock Hill has almost as many people now as all of Lancaster County did in 2010.

Rock Hill remains the fifth largest municipality in South Carolina, behind only Columbia, Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant.

Two big outliers, and a brand new little one

The census data focused on municipalities, which leaves out two of the biggest population hubs in the area.

Lake Wylie is what's called a census designated place. Last year the bureau estimated Lake Wylie's population as of 2016 at 11,472.

That figure would make Lake Wylie the fifth largest municipality in the area, and perhaps the hottest area for residential growth of them all. Lake Wylie's 30 percent growth rate since 2010 was surpassed by only Fort Mill and Tega Cay.

Indian Land isn't recognized by the census bureau. Cobbling together population can be difficult, but when the community had a vote in spring on incorporation, Lancaster County estimated there were 19,264 residents in the impacted area. That number would make it the second biggest municipality in three counties, if it were one. And that estimate may be low.

Indian Land covers all of one zip code — those areas are recognized by the bureau — and part of another. The 29707 zip code covering much of Indian Land had 24,200 residents as of 2016. The growth rate of 36 percent since 2010 ties that zip code with Tega Cay for the second highest in the area, behind only Fort Mill.

The other outlier is one that didn't exist in 2016 or 2010 for comparison. When Van Wyck incorporated in the fall, it had more than 400 people. Since then, the town has at least quadrupled in size, but it hasn't been around long enough to register on the census data.

Oddballs: Sometimes a little goes a long way

McConnells, Heath Springs, Kershaw, Sharon, Hickory Grove and Smyrna all grew at a higher annual rate, and a since-2010 rate, than Rock Hill, Charlotte or South Carolina. McConnells tied Tega Cay for the second largest annual growth rate in the three counties?

How did they do it? They didn't start with many people. McConnells grew by just 11 people from 2016 to 2017. But with a total population now of 303 people, a near-dozen people make a difference.

The six small communities had 18-22 percent growth since 2010. They combined to add 150 people.

Lancaster County is a force

Fueled largely by growth in unincorporated areas — like Indian Land — Lancaster County continues to grow. The 92,550 people estimated in 2017 make for a 3 percent increase from 2016, a 21 percent increase since 2010.

How big is the Indian Land impact? Lancaster has about three times the residents of Heath Springs and Kershaw combined. Lancaster lost residents from 2016 and is down 5 percent from 2010. The county's municipalities combined for flat line growth in a year, 9 percent since 2010.

So, the 3 percent countywide increase in a year is almost entirely from unincorporated areas. More than half the county growth since 2010 is too.

Municipal populations *Unincorporated Indian Land and Lake Wylie didn't have 2017 data released, so their 2016 estimate is used. Indian Land isn't designated as its own place by the U.S. Census Bureau, so data reflects the 29707 zip code only.
Municipality 2017 2016 2010 Annual increase Increase since 2010
Fort Mill 17,557 15,154 10,811 16% 62%
Tega Cay 10,339 9,904 7,620 4% 36%
*Indian Land N/A 24,200 17,742 N/A 36%
*Lake Wylie N/A 11,472 8,841 N/A 30%
McConnells 303 292 255 4% 19%
Heath Springs 965 933 790 3% 22%
Kershaw 2,193 2,124 1,803 3% 22%
Sharon 598 574 494 3% 19%
Hickory Grove 518 504 440 3% 18%
Clover 6,085 5,939 5,094 2% 19%
Smyrna 53 52 45 2% 18%
York 8,147 7,997 7,736 2% 5%
Rock Hill 73,068 72,108 66,154 1% 10%
Fort Lawn 880 879 895 0% -2%
Lowrys 194 194 200 0% -3%
Chester 5,420 5,426 5,607 0% -3%
Great Falls 1,899 1,902 1,979 0% -4%
Richburg 263 263 275 0% -4%
Lancaster 8,976 9,020 8,526 0% -5%
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

Major population centers How York, Lancaster and Chester counties compare to their state and their biggest neighbor to the north
Municipality 2017 2016 2010 Annual increase Increase since 2010
Lancaster County 92,550 89,855 76,652 3% 21%
York County 266,439 257,998 226,073 3% 18%
Charlotte 859,035 843,484 731,424 2% 17%
South Carolina 5,024,369 4,959,822 4,625,364 1% 9%
Chester County 32,301 32,280 33,140 0% -3%
SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau

John Marks: jmarks@fortmilltimes.com; @JohnFMTimes
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