America's Fastest Growing Cities, 2011
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America's Fastest Growing Cities, 2011

Olive Branch : MS : USA | Apr 30, 2011 at 8:31 AM PDT
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Olive Branch

Janice Turner has seen Olive Branch flourish over the last two decades. A small town became Mississippi's ninth-largest city as thousands of people relocated across the state line from Memphis.

The 51-year-old paralegal has spent her life in Olive Branch, 20 miles south of Memphis. Back in 1960 the population added up to only 642, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Turner remembers when visitors to the public library needed merely to drop a slip in a wooden box to borrow books; the expanded 19,000-sq.-ft. library is now Mississippi's second-busiest. Traffic is heavier all over town. It used to take five minutes to drive from one end to the other and can now take 30 minutes during peak hours, she says.
More from BusinessWeek.com

» America's Fastest Growing Cities 2011

» America's Fastest Growing Cities 2010

» Memphis Suburb Is Fastest-Growing City in U.S.


Over the last two decades the population of Olive Branch has exploded by 838 percent. In 1990 residents numbered 3,567. A decade later they totalled 21,054. By 2010, there were 33,484, according to data from the Decennial Census.

In a ranking completed by location analysis company Gadberry Group for Businessweek.com, the Olive Branch area is not only the fastest-growing town in Mississippi, but the fastest growing city in the U.S. The ranking is based on such factors as growth in the number of households within city limits and surrounding areas over the decade and from 2009 to 2010, plus average length of residency and average household income.

Keys: Income and Length of Residence

In addition to household growth, says Gadberry Group principal Larry Martin, "income is one of the primary demographics that define an area's attractiveness. Length of residence is important as a corroborating variable for growth. If an area is truly growing, then the average length of residence should be shorter than an area with flat growth."

From 2000 to 2010, the U.S. population grew by 9.7 percent, according to results from the latest census, but places such as Olive Branch grew at a considerably quicker pace. Other high-growth areas include Keller, Tex., Ellicott City, Md., and South Jordan, Utah, according to Gadberry Group.

"I believe that jobs, affordable housing, a sense of security, and a sense of community are primary drivers," says Martin. "When all of these conditions exist, the odds of growth are high. When none exist, the odds of decline are high."

Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate in these fast-growing cities is lower than the average for their states. Olive Branch's jobless rate in March was 7.5 percent, compared with Mississippi's average 10.2 percent. In Texas, Keller's 6.3 percent rate contrasts with a statewide average of 8.1 percent.

Job Growth, Surfeit of Housing

Fast-growing cities and states are vulnerable to the perils of overbuilding. The effects of the housing bubble are most evident today in Nevada—America's fastest-growing state from 2000 to 2010—which now suffers from the country's highest foreclosure rate.

Today, Olive Branch has 14,724 households, according to Gadberry. Because its population grew faster than the national rate, about 30 percent of the city's homes were built after 2000, far above the national rate of 11 percent, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The city's numbers indicate that from 500 to 700 single-family building permits were issued every year from 2002 to 2006. Since 2008, that number has dropped to about 100 annually.

Olive Branch had a relatively high level of 10.8 months of housing supply in March, according to Pam Simpson, associate broker at Bob Leigh & Associates Realtors, compared to a national rate of about 8 months. (In 2010, its inventory level averaged 8.9 months.) But with foreclosures accounting for 6.4 percent of inventory and one-third of all home sales, the median list price has dropped by about 20 percent, to $175,000, since April 2008, according to data from Zillow.com.

Despite the inconveniences associated with expansion, interest in the city remains keen because of DeSoto County's highly ranked school system, as well as Olive Branch's greater real estate values and lower crime rate in comparison with its urban neighbor. Most residents want to preserve the small town feel, but Page says the city's population might eventually surpass 100,000. Growth has slowed since the recession, says Simpson, but "it's still an attractive place and a place that people are looking to move to."

Here are America's 10 fastest growing cities:

No. 10 - Linton Hall, VA
Number of households: 10,462
Change YOY: 2.89 percent
Change since 2000: 239.45 percent
Average household income: $119,312

Why: Many residents of Linton Hall commute to the Washington area, about 35 miles away. According to lintonhall-realestate.com, the community has grown in recent years as "families and individuals seek out well-located, quiet neighborhoods that are not isolated from nearby urban activity."


No. 9 - West Lafayette, IN
Photo: Purdue University


No. 9 - West Lafayette, IN
Number of households: 16,876
Change YOY: 4.67 percent
Change since 2000: 28.61 percent
Average household income: $89,704

Why: This suburban city is home to Purdue University's main campus and Purdue Research Park, which is home to more than 160 companies. It is across the Wabash River from Lafayette, Ind., a larger city, and 65 miles from Indianapolis. Unemployment in West Lafayette was 4.4 percent in March, half the state's 8.8 percent rate, according to the Indiana Workforce Development Dept.


No. 8 - Madison, AL
Photo: Getty Images



No. 8 - Madison, AL
Number of households: 18.042
Change YOY: 2.76 percent
Change since 2000: 50.45 percent
Average household income: $97,616

Why: The Madison City School system is a top system in the state, making it an attractive place for families, according to the city's website. Unemployment in the city was 5.6 percent in March, compared to the statewide rate of 9.2 percent, according to estimates from the Alabama Industrial Relations Dept. Major employers include software developer Intergraph, public schools, and the city.


No. 7 - Calhoun, GA
Photo: Gordon County Chamber of Commerce


No. 7 - Calhoun, GA
Number of households: 11,364
Change YOY: 4.55 percent
Change since 2000: 36.31 percent
Average household income: $68,905

Why: Calhoun, 70 miles north of Atlanta and 50 miles south of Chattanooga, is also 20 minutes from Dalton, a major carpet distribution, shipping, and retail center. An increase in population and manufacturing jobs in the area have driven the Calhoun real estate market over the past 20 years and continues to do so in 2011, according to the website of real estate agent Mike Ramirez.


No. 6 - Cary, NC
Photo: Getty Images



No. 6 - Cary, NC
Number of households: 66,596
Change YOY: 4.09 percent
Change since 2000: 60.15 percent
Average household income: $103,500

Why: The Raleigh-Cary metro area was the fourth-fastest-growing place in the country from 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The town of Cary, located in the heart of the Triangle area between Raleigh and the Research Triangle Park, offers access to one of the country's strongest job markets. Major employers include SAS Institute, Verizon (VZ), IBM (IBM), American Airlines Reservation Center (AMR), Lucent Technologies (ALU), and Siemens (SI), according to the city.


No. 5 - North Creek, WA
Photo: Getty Images


No. 5 - North Creek, WA
Number of households: 12,669
Change YOY: 4.25 percent

Change since 2000: 35.5 percent
Average household income: $103,930

Why: This suburb about 23 miles northwest of Seattle is growing quickly. North Creek is just south of Seattle Hill-Silver Firs, Washington's fastest growing area in Businessweek.com's 2010 ranking.


No. 4 - South Jordan, UT
Photo: Noel Hendrickson



No. 4 - South Jordan, UT
Number of households: 14,186
Change YOY: 4.08 percent
Change since 2000: 89.4 percent
Average household income: $107,908

Why: The population of South Jordan grew from 1,345 in 1960 to 57,067 in 2011, according to data from the city. Growth has been fueled by the availability of land, large lots, a strong community lifestyle, and a rural atmosphere, the city states on its website. The area has also grown due to a general population increase in the Salt Lake Valley.


No. 3 - Ellicott City, MD
Photo: Getty Images


No. 3 - Ellicott City, MD
Number of households: 25,831
Change YOY: 2.17 percent
Change since 2000: 20.46 percent

Average household income: $121,583

Why: Ellicott City, located between job hubs in Washington and Baltimore, is part of the highly ranked Howard County school system and, according to weichert.com, offers many outdoor recreational activities such as camping, biking, hiking, boating, tennis, and golfing. The median home value in this wealthy suburb was $443,000 in February, compared to $229,300 for the state, according to Zillow.com.


No. 2 - Keller, TX
Photo: Getty Images



No. 2 - Keller, TX
Number of households: 20,429
Change YOY: 4.91 percent
Change since 2000: 108.61 percent
Average household income: $120,348

Why: Texas continues to grow rapidly. Keller, an affluent suburb of Fort Worth, has a low crime rate, an excellent school district, and a variety of housing. It also offers easy access to Fort Worth, major highways, business centers, and the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.


No. 1 - Olive Branch, MS
Photo: City of Olive Branch


No. 1 - Olive Branch, MS
Number of households: 14,724
Change YOY: 4.56 percent
Change since 2000: 63.47 percent
Average household income: $102,803

Why: Olive Branch offers comfortable, uncongested living and employment less than 30 minutes from Memphis—"the cultural, financial, and distribution center of the Mid-South," according to the Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce. Growth in the area has been attributed to migration from Memphis and growth of the casino resort complex in nearby Tunica County, according to desotocountyonline.

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