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SD’s growth hotspot: Onida?

The central South Dakota counties of Sully and Hyde -- home to county seats Onida and Highmore -- logged the No. 1 and No. 3 growth rates in all of South Dakota in 2012, according to recently released federal data.

If the numbers are correct, it would be the first growth in Sully County since the 1950 census and the first in Hyde County since 1930. But it's difficult to know for certain whether the numbers are correct or a data-collecting anomaly.

Local officials expressed disbelief when asked about the growth rates, saying no recent development would account for an influx of residents.

"I really thought we lost (population)," said Sully County assessor Karen Wilcox.

Marilyn Ring, the newly elected auditor in Hyde County, said growth in population "would be a shock."

The counties’ growth rates, 3.7 percent for Sully and 2.7 percent for Hyde, compare to a statewide growth rate of 1.3 percent.

State Demographer Mike McCurry noted that the 2012 figures were put together by the federal American Community Survey, which is affiliated with the Census Bureau. The ACS does sampling surveys and not the hard count done every 10 years by the Census Bureau.

"Anything in between those census dates will be either the result of a survey or extrapolation. Both of those counties lost population between 2000 and 2010," said McCurry, who works at the Rural Life and Census Data Center at South Dakota State University.

Even the ACS puts a note of caution on its website when explaining how to use its data: "The ACS, like any other statistical activity, is subject to error." The agency says it conducts sampling by mail-in surveys and telephone surveys.

McCurry does not discount the possibility that the growth rates are correct, noting that their small populations -- 1,427 for Sully County and 1,437 for Hyde County -- mean that relatively few people equal a big growth rate.

"Sully would only need 51 people to move in to make that 3.7 percent increase. A single Hutterite colony could do the job in either county," McCurry said. "It's possible the numbers are correct as can be."

It's also possible, he said, that those would-be 51 souls come from within the margin of error of 7 percent, as that range is 105 people for Sully County.

"I can use the American Community Survey in rural areas, with caution," he said.

Beyond those two rural counties, the new data show Davison County experiencing the state's 24th fastest growth at 0.9 percent and a population of 19,769 in 2012. The city of Mitchell logged the same growth rate, making it South Dakota's 15th fastest growing municipality, with a population of 15,484.

Here's a look at growth rates in other significant counties and cities in the state:

  • City of Tea, 6.9 percent    
  • City of Hartford, 5.5 percent
  • City of Harrisburg, 4.2 percent
  • Lincoln County, 3.5 percent (No. 2 county)
  • City of Box Elder, 3.3 percent
  • City of Canton, 2.3 percent
  • City of Brandon, 2.2 percent
  • City of Sioux Falls, 2.1 percent
  • Dewey County, 2 percent
  • Meade County, 2 percent
  • Minnehaha County, 1.9 percent
  • Pennington County, 1.8 percent
  • Harding County, 1.8 percent
  • City of Rapid City, 1.7 percent
  • Brookings County, 1.6 percent
  • City of Brookings, 1.6 percent
  • City of Aberdeen, 1.6 percent
  • City of Winner, -2.2 percent
  • Tripp County, -2.3 percent
  • Day County, -2.3 percent