HANCOCK COUNTY — Hancock County was one of Indiana’s fastest-growing counties last year, new data shows.
While most of the state saw stagnant or decreasing populations between 2015 and 2016, Hancock County and four others surrounding Marion County experienced the most growth in the state.
Hancock County added 1,325 new residents to its population last year, Census data released this week shows, and local planners and economic developers say that growth isn’t likely to slow down soon.
Hamilton County saw the largest increase in population at 2.3 percent, followed closely by Boone County at 2 percent. Hancock and Johnson counties’ populations both rose 1.8 percent.
The county’s 2016 population rose to 73,717, up from 72,392 the year before.
The recently released population data looks only at the county total; it doesn’t break down population by cities and towns, but officials suspect communities on the west side, including McCordsville, are seeing the highest number of new residents.
Ryan Crum, director of McCordsville’s planning and building department, said the town’s location — situated in Hancock County but bordering larger communities Geist and Fishers — is attractive to young families who enjoy small-town living with access to a big city, Crum said.
Programs at Mt. Vernon School Corp., including a digital technology initiative that has put take-home computers in the hands of every student — also draws families to the area, he said.
As three commercial projects inch closer to completion, including the new Meijer expected to open in May along Broadway Street in McCordsville, Crum expects the population will continue to rise.
As those numbers grow, the community becomes more attractive to restaurants and retailers looking to operate in a growing market, he said.
Greenfield also saw residential growth, evident by an increase in the number of residential building permits issued in 2016, planning and building department documents shows.
In 2015, the department issued 59 building permits for single and multi-family homes. Last year, that number jumped to 161, documents show.
Skip Kuker, Hancock Economic Development Council director, said strong residential and business growth go hand in hand.
Businesses are drawn to the diverse workforce that is available in Hancock County, he said. Those with backgrounds in science find careers at Elanco and Covance, while trucking firms — like Celadon, which is building a new headquarters near Mt. Comfort — and manufacturing companies, such as Bastian, offer jobs that are more technical, he said.
Hancock County’s proximity to Indianapolis also is a major draw for both residents and businesses, Kuker said.
The county’s rural atmosphere gives each of its municipalities a small-town feel, but the county is a short drive from Indianapolis, where residents can go if they’re looking for shopping and restaurant options not offered here, he said.