Usually, there’s some mild curiosity about the count but this time around the Milam County figure is going to be one of the most interesting ever.
Why? Look at it this way. Six other counties touch Milam. Two of them, Williamson and Bell, are urban-dominated mega counties. Frankly, Milam doesn’t have much in common with either one.
But Milam easily has a larger population than the other four, Burleson, Lee, Robertson and Falls. According to census bureau estimates, three of those four counties have either lost population or essentially remained steady since the 2000 census.
Falls went down 10 percent, to 16,782, according to the estimates. Robertson went down two percent to 15,706. Burleson was about the same, increasing 0.6 percent to 16,470.
Largest gainer of the adjacent rural county group was Lee which increased four percent to 16,231.
Which way will Milam go? Our county hasn’t exactly exploded in the nine years since 2000. It’s estimated Milam went up 1.6 percent, from 24,628 to 24,782.
What to expect? Of course this year’s census is taking place just as the full impact from the 2008 Alcoa closing is expecting to be felt. You’d think any exodus from our area would show up.
And yet, unexpectedly, the Rockdale ISD posted an enrollment increase in 2009-10 and has surprisingly maintained that increase the entire school year. And that’s happened in a time when other districts have shown an enrollment decline.
For years the conventional wisdom—maybe “hope” is a better word—is that the population boom to our west will bleed across the county line and stimulate Milam’s economy. After all Williamson County did increase a staggering 64 percent—to 410,686, it’s estimated.
This is the year we find out just which direction Milam’s population is headed. After all, that’s what censuses are for.—M.B.