Port Arthur population declines substantially
Though Jefferson County has gained slightly in population over the last decade, U.S. Census numbers published Friday reflect a significant population loss in Port Arthur.
Two of the three Mid-County cities — Nederland and Groves — saw a slight increase in total population with the release of the 2010 Census figures while Port Neches saw a slight decrease.
The South Jefferson County city’s population decreased by 3,937 people, or 6.82 percent, from the previous census taken in 2000. Current census numbers show Port Arthur’s population is 53,818 compared to 57,755 people counted in the 2000 Census.
City Manager Steve Fitzgibbons said city officials expected a decrease, but was not sure how much the Census would show once the numbers were counted.
“A lot of people were displaced by the hurricanes, that would be the biggest reason,” Fitzgibbons said.
Since the city’s population was counted in 2010, some of the Port Arthur’s population has returned, he said.
“I think we are increasing now; I don’t think we are still dropping,” he said.
The decrease, though significant, did not fall below 50,000 which allows an entitlement city designation for Community Development Block Grant funding.
The dip in population could result in a decrease in CDBG funding, but should not be substantial.
It could be offset by the number of Hispanics moving into the city. Census 2010 figures reflect a 5,836 increase in Hispanic population, or a 57.89 percent increase above 2000 Census numbers.
The city’s white population was down by 6,093, or 33.14 percent. Blacks residing in the city showed a decrease of 3,424 while the Asian population decreased by 256 people. People of other races were up by 40 and mixed races were down by 40.
Jefferson County Precinct 3 Commissioner Michael “Shane” Sinegal said in addition to the storms, the city’s high rate of unemployment among local residents could have contributed to those leaving. The city’s image is likely another factor.
“There are very good people in Port Arthur that want Port Arthur to come back. We as elected officials need to do a better job of representing and promoting our city,” Sinegal said.
To keep future populations, the city must be able to retain young people. Local hiring at plants has to be addressed, he said.
“It is really a shame that we have one of the biggest expansions going on. We should be one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, not one of the highest,” Sinegal said.
The city of Nederland saw a slight increase of 125 people, moving from 17,422 to 17,547.
Chris Duque, city manger for the city of Nederland, was pleased to see the numbers.
“ I think, like any community in the area, were concerned about the affects of hurricanes Rita and Ike and a possible decrease in population,” Duque said. “The increase is a good indication for continued residential growth and hopefully business growth.”
Nederland’s white population dropped by 1,388, going from 15,642 in 2000 to 14,254 while the black population increased from 151 to 686. The Asian population increased slightly, going from 352 to 487 from an increase of 135.
The highest population increase came from Hispanic which increased by 782.
Leaders in the city will soon take a deeper look at the numbers other than the raw total for the demographic breakdown, ethnicity, age and more. The information gleaned from the Census will reflect the needs of the community, he said, enabling leaders to plan ahead for future services.
If there are areas where the population dropped then city officials will seek to find the reason why the numbers are down and address issues such as code enforcement or police patrolling if necessary.
For areas with a growth of younger residents there may be a need for more sidewalks, he added as an example of how the information may be used.
The city of Groves saw an increase as well, moving from 15,733 in 2000 to 16,144 for an increase of 411 people.
D. Sosa, city manager for the city of Groves, believes the reason for the growth may be due to the city’s diligence in making the city a safe, blight-free community.
“It’s hard to speculate but I believe it may be due to a combination of all of the programs we put together to reclaim our neighborhoods and reinstate peace and dignity to our neighborhoods,” Sosa said. “This goes back several years ago to when we began zero tolerance on blight and junk vehicles, demolished dilapidated and dangerous structures. It’s a concentrated effort to make Groves a better place to live and I think it’s paid off.”
The racial makeup of the city changed somewhat from decade to decade as the white population dropped 1,703.
All other ethnic groups saw an increase.
The Hispanic population is Groves jumped from 1,231 to 2,639 for an increase of 1,408 or 114.38 percent while the black population increased by 445. The Asian population increased by 222.
Sosa said early predictions had the city’s population dropping below 15,000 but instead of dropping, the population broke 15,000.
The city now has more housing stock and as structures were demolished, the lots were bought and new construction began.
“In the grand scheme of things, 400 may not sound like a lot,” Sosa said. “But if you look at it as a trend, it shows growth. I’ve been in city government since 1980 and looking back over three decades this is the biggest increase I’ve seen of any Mid-county city.”
The growth, he believes, shows the strength of the community.
The growth will help businesses and merchants in the city and represents new customers for water and sewer service.
“It’s a very positive thing,” he said. “We’re not going to break any records but this is positive in light of what has happened over three decades, approaching over a 3 percent increase (in population) is pretty exciting.”
The city of Port Neches saw a decrease in population, moving from 13,601 in 2000 to 13,040 for a difference of 561.
Andrè Wimer, city manager for the city of Port Neches, said he can’t attribute the population shift to any one cause.
“As a practical matter, the city has not lost housing. In fact, in the last decade there has been an addition in houses constructed,” Wimer said.
The racial makeup of Port Neches also changed somewhat with a loss of 1,256 of the white population, dropping the numbers from 12,410 to 11,154.
The Hispanic population increased by 606, moving from 690 to ,1,296, blacks moved up by two and Asians by 92.
The loss in population will not affect the city in any way relative to state or federal funding, he added.
County-wide Census figures also reflected a growing Hispanic population with 16,363 added to the rolls. The number reflects a 61.66 percent increase above 2000 Census numbers.
Jefferson County’s white population showed an overall decrease with a loss of 18,101, or 13.86 percent below last census numbers.
Blacks reflected a small increase with 18 new residents. The Asian population was up with 1,289 people, or a 17.81 percent increase. Other races accounted for 159 additional people and mixed races added 494.
Overall, Jefferson County gained 222 people. Total population for the county is 252,273 compared to 252,051 in 2000.
Orange County showed a much more significant loss with 3,129 fewer people. Total 2010 Orange County population is 81,837 compared to 84,966 a decade ago.
Vidor and Bridge City reflected the largest decreases in population with 861 and 811 fewer people respectively. The city of Orange lost the least people with 48 less than the 2000 Census.
Orange County’s biggest ethnic group gain was among Hispanics with an added 1,693 people. Whites were down 5,060; blacks down by 158 and Asians down 145. Other races saw 20 additional people while another 231 Mixed race population was counted.
Orange County’s population from the 2010 Census is 81,837 compared to 84,966 in 2000.
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