Snohomish County leads all others in population growth

Welcome to beautiful Snohomish County, the fastest-growing part of Washington state.

You’ve probably noticed the extra traffic on the way to work or the portable classrooms outside schools. And it’s impossible to miss all those new neighborhoods sprouting up in — and around — Bothell, Marysville and Mill Creek.

It should come as no surprise, then, that a recent state report shows Snohomish County, by percent, leading all other Washington counties for population growth.

The county added 16,600 people from 2014 to 2015, reaching 757,600 as of April 1. That’s a 2.2 percent rise, slightly ahead of Clark and King counties.

“Snohomish County has been one of the fastest-growing counties for a long time; during the last 25 years, we’ve had a huge increase,” said Kristin Kelly, who represents Futurewise, an organization whose express purpose is to guide growth. “This is a desirable place to live and we want to make sure this continues to be a desirable place to live when more people arrive.”

The numbers from the state Office of Financial Management, released June 25, showed that Washington’s population surpassed 7 million people.

Snohomish County is a big reason why.

Over the past year, only King County grew more in total numbers. Pierce County, population 830,120, remains larger than Snohomish County, but only added about half as many people over the past year.

Nearly three-quarters of the increase came from net migration, or more people moving in than moving away. The rest came from natural increase, births over deaths. That differs from the trend over the past five years, when migration and natural increase accounted for roughly equal shares of Snohomish County’s 44,265 new residents.

It’s no accident that people are drawn to this area, said Troy McClelland, president and CEO of Economic Alliance Snohomish County. They aren’t just being priced out of Seattle or Eastside housing; they’re also coming to work for technologically sophisticated manufacturers in aerospace and other industries.

“They’d rather be in a place talent is gravitating towards,” McClelland said. “There’s both a push and pull effect in that respect.”

The county’s unemployment rate has remained consistently low since 2010. In May, it was 4 percent — less than anywhere except for King County, with 3.7 percent.

“We certainly were one of the most elastic regions,” and bounced back the quickest from the recession, McClelland said.

Growth in the county’s unincorporated areas was greater than any other county in the state. The epicenter has been the North Creek area around the 35th and 39th avenue corridors, the region’s hottest housing market.

“We are very busy,” county planning director Clay White said.

White is in a position to know; his staff handles building permits for those areas and oversees long-term planning.

Snohomish County is on pace to grow by another 200,000 people by 2035. The County Council, in June, adopted a new comprehensive plan to manage the influx, with an emphasis on urban areas such as Everett and Lynnwood.

“That helps relieve the pressure on building more homes in our unincorporated areas, where we lack the infrastructure and it costs taxpayers more money to build the infrastructure,” said Kelly, from Futurewise.

Homebuilders, though, say the market still favors single-family houses and large tracts of land, which are hard to come by in established cities.

Speaking of cities, Marysville ranked third statewide for population growth, behind Seattle and Vancouver. Bothell was No. 12, Mill Creek No. 14 and Everett No. 17. Marysville, with an estimated 65,087 residents, ranked 45th for population growth last year among 746 U.S. cities of more than 50,000 residents.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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