Saturday, 27 January 2018

Huntsville: Mover and Shaker

About a year ago, it was brought out as page two news in the state of Alabama....but Huntsville officially passed Mobile as the number two most populated city of the state.  And the suggestion which has been on some minds....when exactly will Huntsville pass Birmingham.

So, some observations:

Mobile hit absolute maximum growth right around 1960 with 194,000 residents. Folks were awful proud because if you went back to 1920....they were at 60,700.  The war years helped, along with industrial growth.  The thing is....on trends....Mobile did more or less nothing for the past forty years.  It's stagnant.  It's not in decline, but there is absolutely zero-growth.

The Huntsville trend line?  In 1920, Huntsville had a population of roughly 20,000 people. By 1970, they'd hit 139,000.  And here in the past year, they've hit 195,000 resident, and counting.  Stagnation cannot be found within the city limits of Huntsville.  This is a town that didn't even hit the 10,000 level until the boom period of the 1920s.

So you turn to Birmingham, which in the 1920 era were already at 178,000 and growing.  Somewhere along the 1960s....they peaked out at 340,000.  A decade later, forty-thousand people had packed up and left.  Twenty years ago, they had shrunk down to 240,000....and today it is suggested that they sit at 210,000.

What happened to Birmingham?  Most folks from the state will center on three key issues:

1.  The suggestion of a corrupted local city government.

2.  Increased crime.

3.  Urban flight to better neighborhoods outside of the city....even outside of the county.

Birmingham hitting 200,000?  You can draw the line and anticipate that at some point by 2030....roughly twelve years away....unless something changes, it'll hit 200,000.

Huntsville in 2030?  With job growth discussed....it'll probably hit 210,000 by that point and be the major population center of the state, and likely be identified throughout the entire state as the 'mover and shaker'.

The added part to this story is that we are simply talking about Huntsville itself.....we aren't talking about Madison (the unattached neighbor).  In 1920, Madison had on 435 residents, and folks there were on a first-name basis.  Even by 1960....they'd barely hit 1,500 residents, and you still knew one out of five folks by their first name.  So today....Madison is sitting there with almost 44,000 residents.

A lot of the Madison 'flow' became the flight-folks who were disenchanted with Huntsville, and simply moved onto the suburb-town of Madison as the answer.  If you looked toward 2030 and Madison?  It's very possible that they will hit 60,000 by that point.

The curious thing here is that this job-growth in the region isn't medium-range....but it drifts on up into the upper-range.  These people spend money....cars, houses, RVs, fishing boats, quad-bikes, trips to Aruba or Vegas, and various 'toys'.  This increases business growth and shops throughout the entire region.

The Huntsville Airport by 2030?  Three years ago, a million passengers went through the airport in an average year, with the primary destination of Atlanta (roughly 40-percent of the flights).  I think flight activity at Birmingham will decrease over the next decade by 20-percent, and Huntsville's flight totals will probably jump by 50-percent.

For the state?  It'll cause state leadership to sit and ponder over the significance and revenue dollars spent in Birmingham.  I hate to suggest that it's a dying city, but you kinda wonder about the next thirty years and if the city will decay enough to be like Baltimore or Detroit.

If you had suggested any of this in the late 1970s....most folks would have laughed at you.