Lincoln places in Top 10 growth area

Name recognition helps the city
By: Stephanie Dumm News Messenger Reporter
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Lincoln ranked nine out of 10 on a list of the most notable high-growth areas in the United States. That’s according to a recent study performed by the Gadberry Group, which is based in Little Rock, Ark. and provides location intelligence services and data for retail brands. Last year, Lincoln placed No. 4 out of 10 on the group’s list, joining other cities including Katy, Texas, Queen Creek, Ariz., and Lehigh Acres, Fla. The Gadberry Group looks at total growth from 2000 to 2010 and growth from 2009 to 2010, as well as demographic variables including ethnicity, household income, net worth, length of residency and age to complete the list, according to a recent Gadberry Group press release. The number of households added to Lincoln in 2010 was 879, which is a year-over-year growth of 4 percent. The decade saw a household growth of 263.86 percent, according to Gadberry Group. Larry Martin, chief operating officer for the Gadberry Group, said Lincoln had 4,445 households in 2000, which jumped to 11,049 in 2009. “A household would be the residents of an individual address,” Martin said. The Gadberry Group said the Lincoln area “placed first for average household income growth at 43.17 percent” and has 3,390 homes with a net worth of $1 million or greater. Lincoln has an average length of residence of 5.3 years, which Martin said also shows growth. “If we believe that an area is high growth, we would expect to see a shorter than average length of residence for it’s an indicator that our household change data is accurate,” Martin said. Martin was not able to say why Lincoln is growing but gave some reasons for the growth. “There are typically a few things that make areas attractive for growth. That would be good-paying jobs, a sense of community and security, and affordable housing,” Martin said. “Not being familiar with Lincoln, I’m going to assume that some or all of those things exist there.” He said the retirement community in Lincoln, Sun City Lincoln Hills, helps create a sense of community in Lincoln since “community is a thing that attracts humans together.” Martin said being placed on the list could be exciting for the city’s economic development staff. “It gives them an opportunity to tout that there are exciting things happening. They can talk about the things that make Lincoln attractive,” Martin said. “It validates the work that they are doing to make Lincoln an attractive place.” Steve Art, the city of Lincoln’s economic and redevelopment manager, said Lincoln isn’t growing anymore “so we’re living off of our older numbers.” “It’s nice to be honored as the ninth-fastest growing. It’s a great marketing tool for Lincoln and it gets our name out,” Art said. “It gets the name of Lincoln out there as a desirable community. Name recognition is a nice thing to have and it tells other people there must be a reason people are going to Lincoln.” City Manager Jim Estep said the ranking is “a positive sign because there is still building going on but at a slow rate.” “You get national recognition and some of the larger developers and retailers would take note that this is a place they should look at for future growth,” Estep said. “It tells the development community it’s still a desirable place to live.” Realtors that The News Messenger spoke to said home sales have been good this past year. “We have seen continued real estate sales through this year at a surprising rate of continued activity,” said Gene Thorpe, Century 21 Select manager and broker. Thorpe was positive about Lincoln’s ranking as a high-growth area. “I think it’s great. It’s kind of leftover from the economy that was in place prior to the downturn,” Thorpe said. “I don’t see what value it has at this point until we see what is going to happen with the government and the rest of the economy. It can give people who might not think of us a chance to see what the past growth was and base their decision on whether or not they want to come here.” Mel Ewing, a Realtor with Arrow Realty, said he was surprised to hear that Lincoln was ranked as high-growth. “It’s how they are interpreting the data, because if it’s a matter of putting bodies in empty houses, we’re just refilling empty houses,” Ewing said. “We’re selling a lot of houses but I think the data is skewed by the first five years. I don’t see us as growing right now. We’ve got storefronts that are empty and we’ve got a lot of houses for sale.” The News Messenger also spoke with downtown businesses about the high-growth ranking. Kari Swatzke, Umpqua Bank manager, said she’d like the growth “to come to downtown Lincoln.” “I think we are turning into quite a big town but I have to wonder what’s going on with our downtown,” Swatzke said. “I’m not seeing the growth in downtown. The businesses around are able to stay open but we are not bustling.” George Fotopoulos, Foto’s Market owner, was “shocked” to hear about Lincoln’s ranking. “Somebody had better double check the numbers. It doesn’t seem right to me,” Fotopoulos said. “If that’s the case, growth is a good thing for the town because we need it.”