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Numbers game: Population estimates help guide city growth

New population estimates last week provide a number of interesting details about the City of Woodbury. Those details mean good things, too, like that Woodbury is a good place to operate a business and raise a family.

Last Monday, the Metropolitan Council released growth estimates for the state, from the year 2010 through 2014. The U.S. Census Bureau, likewise, released its population estimates early last Thursday. 

But the two sets differ by about 700 residents. The Met Council’s numbers show Woodbury with an estimated population of 66,119, while the U.S. Census Bureau sets Woodbury’s population at 66,807. But Housing and Redevelopment Coordinator Karl Batalden said the difference in totals really equals out to about a 1 percent difference. 

“If the variance is 700 people, that’s a very narrow margin of error,” Batalden said. “I think the big picture is that the Met Council, the city and the Census Bureau are all basically seeing the same trends and conditions when it comes to people living in the city.”

The population estimates for each agency are determined through fairly complex – yet different – set of formulas, Woodbury Community Development Director Dwight Picha said.

That sort of knowledge is helpful for city planners, Picha said. In 2018, Woodbury will update its Comprehensive Plan, which looks at everything from zoning to infrastructure, to housing needs and demographics. City staff also uses population estimates in budget planning, capital improvement items, and when, where and what kind of growth will occur. 

“We look at trends over a period of years from a planning perspective,” Picha said. “That’s valuable information in putting all of those programs together.”

The city considers the U.S. Census Bureau’s data to be the most consistent with Woodbury’s own population estimates, which had been set at 66,613 for 2014. Woodbury uses its own, known housing data to determine its estimates, Batalden said. The city takes the known housing information and multiplies that number by 2.66, which had been considered the “average” household size. 

“We have rock solid data when it comes to housing units because we issue the permits,” Batalden said. “What gets tricky is trying to figure out what average household size is. It’s that average size that plays into the average for our population. Now we have the Census giving us a formal blessing of what was the 2014 population estimates.

“The Census Bureau is really the gold standard when it comes to looking at these types of numbers,” he added. 

But projections from the Metropolitan Council also forecast growth in the “average” size of Woodbury’s households – up to 2.71 by the year 2020; 2.73 by year 2030; and 2.74 by 2040. 

The Met Council also projects Woodbury’s population to be about 87,800 by 2040.

Batalden is encouraged by the Met Council’s projections.

“The per-household sizes are actually increasing, and that gives some perspective on Woodbury’s values, that we’re a great place to live for families. In other communities, those numbers are declining, but seeing that really supports the idea and value statement in the community, that Woodbury is a great place to raise a family and have kids,” he said. 


According to the Metropolitan Council’s latest population report, Woodbury was the third-fastest growing community in the state of Minnesota from 2010-2014, coming in behind Blaine (8.5 percent increase) and Minneapolis (7.5 percent increase). Woodbury’s population increased by 6.7 percent. Lakeville comes in as the fourth-fastest growing community, with a 6.1 percent increase. 

Delving into the U.S. Census Bureau data, Batalden found that Woodbury has the ninth-highest population of any city in the state. For the first time, he said, this means Woodbury has surpassed St. Cloud in population. Woodbury trails Maple Grove by less than 100 residents. Minneapolis is in first place, with a population of 407,207. 

However, by the same Census data, Woodbury has secured its place as having the highest population in Washington County.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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