If bigger means better, Las Vegas just beat out Baltimore.
Las Vegas gained 10,220 residents in 2015, making it the 28th most populous city in the United States. It edged out the mid-Atlantic metropolis for the spot, population estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau show.
Las Vegas’ population is estimated at 623,747, compared with Baltimore’s 621,849.
Henderson, too, is moving up the national population ranks: it jumped from 71st place in 2014 to 67th in 2015, growing by 8,227 residents to 285,667, the most recent Census data show.
Population growth has both perks and drawbacks, with some people arguing gains are good and others saying they want to see transportation and water issues sorted out before another influx of residents arrives, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said.
“There are two sides to every coin,” Goodman said. “I could argue either side.”
But she called the current Las Vegas population rank “a nice number.”
“It satisfies the people who don’t want to get any bigger, and also those who really see opportunities here for growth and development,” Goodman said.
Before the recession, population growth rates exceeded 4 percent; now, they’re closer to 2 percent. Future local population growth is expected, although it likely won’t continue at that rate, said Stephen M. Miller, professor and director of the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research.
“We’re expecting population growth; people are moving here,” Miller said, adding that the 2 percent growth rate may persist for a few more years, but it won’t last for the next two decades. “The larger you get, the harder it is to maintain the same growth rate.”
But is the population rank of local cities compared with others across the country meaningful?
“Comparing us to other cities, whether we’re ranked 15th or 30th, I’m not sure matters so much,” Miller said.
Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin said the rank is just a number.
“That’s nice, I guess, but I don’t think it’s for bragging purposes,” Coffin said, adding his concern lies with how quickly growth happened in the past, outpacing the expansion of infrastructure.
“It’s not how many people we have but how fast we got there,” Coffin said.
Former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said although population gains create challenges, they can also make a community more dynamic, bringing expanding academic, medical and cultural opportunities.
“I’m a great believer in growth,” he said. “It creates a vibrancy.”
Las Vegas’ population is 7,599 residents shy of Oklahoma City’s, the 27th most populous American city. Oklahoma City held onto the same rank it had in 2014, but it also grew by more than 10,000 residents from 2014 to 2015.
Portland, Oregon, added 13,000 residents year over year, propelling it from 28th to 26th in the rankings, with an estimated population of 632,309. Since 2010, the Census Bureau estimates Portland’s population has grown by 46,882 residents. Las Vegas added 38,967 residents during the same period.
Just above Henderson in the population rankings is Cincinnati, which, at 298,550, has nearly 13,000 more residents than Henderson. But where Cincinnati has added 1,644 residents since 2010, Henderson added 27,799 residents.
Henderson city officials expect a continued flow of new residents over the next two decades, and forecast a 2035 population of about 386,000 residents, said David Cherry, Henderson’s communications and intergovernmental relations manager.
The 8,200 residents the Census Bureau estimates Henderson gained in 2015 don’t match the year-over-year population gains the city had before the Great Recession. The city once ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing cities and at the peak of growth added about 12,000 residents in a year. That growth slowed during the economic downturn, but since 2012, Henderson has added 5,000 or more residents per year, Cherry said.
“We’re not a stranger to growth,” Cherry said. “Being able to keep up with the demand for services, and making sure infrastructure is available when families move in — roads, sewer and water — are all things the city works hard to make sure will be in place as the community continues to grow.”