BEND, Ore. - Bend is still growing fast-- and that's not a big surprise to any local residents. But the U.S. Census Bureau just released its population estimate Thursday for the 15 fastest-growing large cities in America of over 50,000 residents, and Bend is No. 6 on the list -- with a much larger figure than another set of estimates.
The Census Bureau's new July 1, 2016 estimate is that Bend had 91,122 residents, up nearly 5 percent from a year earlier.
And it's not just about "Welcome to Bend" signs or bragging rights, but dollars and cents, as government agencies use these estimates to, for example, distribute taxes or grant funding.
The new numbers also can help fast-growing cities like Bend with land use and transportation planning.
"About 12 years ago, we adopted a population forecast that forecasted growth through 2025, where we would reach a population of 109,000 people," said Damian Syrnyk, a senior planner with the Bend Growth and Management Department.
Portland State University's Population and Research Center released its yearly estimates last fall for that same July 1 date that pegged Bend at "only" 83,500 people -- or 7,622 fewer than the Census figure. The Census Bureau tends to analyze federal resources like tax returns and Social Security data, while housing starts play a key role in the PSU estimates.
Any estimates are likely to be more "soft" the farther you get from a once-a-decade head count, the Census conducted in 2010 and coming up in 2020. And the more likely two sets of estimates are to vary.
Whatever the "real" number is, Syrnyk said Bend is ready for this growth -- something many residents are apt to question.
The city is tracking the growth as closely as it can to keep updating its water, land, and transportation plans. Over the next five years, the city will begin expanding into its new urban growth boundary, building out and sometimes up to accommodate Bend's rapid growth.
"Folks that have been here for a while and have seen the growth will go, 'No surprise,'" Syrnyk said. "Folks that have seen the growth and -- rather, not wanted to see it, are going to not like it. But this area offers a lot to people, and that's why people are coming here."
People on the street we talked to downtown had a variety of guesses for Bend’s population - and said despite the growth, said Bend still has a lot to offer.
"I just love all the outdoor recreation and really good restaurants," said one woman, as another added, "and the vibe. Just a good feel to it."
"I think It's fabulous," one man said. "I think that the area over here can support a lot more growth."
As for other Central Oregon cities, Redmond also had a big "jump" in its July 1 population estimate from the new Census Bureau figures, with an estimate of 29,322 residents, a difference of 1,859 from the earlier PSU figures.
La Pine's new estimate, of 1,815 residents, is 140 more than PSU's estimate, while Sisters had 2,573 residents, according to the federal figure, 183 more people than Portland State estimated.
Prineville was knocking on the door of 10,000 residents last summer, with 9,928 residents on July 1, according to the Census Bureau. That's 283 more people than PSU estimated.
The differences are smaller for smaller towns. Culver, for example, has a new estimate of 1,474 residents, 64 more than last fall's PSU figure. And Metolius, up 14 residents to 755 last July, has 14 more people in the Census Bureau count than the PSU estimate.