A drive through the many communities in the York-Lancaster-Chester area would show it. Now, so do federal figures.
The U.S. Census Bureau released new municipal population estimates Thursday. Those numbers show some areas are growing like wildfire - especially along Interstate 77 - since the most recent official census in 2010.
At the rate it’s going, Fort Mill is likely to double its population in the decade since the 2010 census.
The town now has an estimated 19,848 residents. That estimate is up 2,314 people in a single year. It’s up 84% from the 2010 census number of 10,811 residents. Fort Mill now has more total residents than six South Carolina counties, according to the new census estimate.
Those figures only account for residential growth in the town. Outside town limits — Baxter and other subdivisions toward Tega Cay — make the township population much higher. The recent release doesn’t account for the township as a whole, though Tega Cay, Indian Land and York County all see growth surges, too.
The census estimated Tega Cay population of 10,863 people is up 43% since 2010. The more than 500-resident jump just from 2017 to 2018 comes to a 5% increase. Tega Cay is the third largest municipality in the tri-county area, behind only Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
The single-year growth rate in Tega Cay ties it with Clover for the second highest in the three counties, behind only Fort Mill.
The change since 2010 puts Tega Cay behind only Fort Mill and the unincorporated Indian Land and Lake Wylie areas.
Estimates for Indian Land in Lancaster County aren’t as easy to get. Since it’s unincorporated, there isn’t a 2018 municipal estimate. There is a 2017 population estimate for the 29707 zip code, which covers the northern part of the Lancaster County panhandle. The southern part of the panhandle falls within the same zip code that includes Lancaster and other areas.
The all-Indian Land zip code had an estimated 26,251 people in 2017. That figure is up 48% from the 2010 census.
Just using that zip code, or only part of the actual Indian Land area, the panhandle would be the largest municipality in Lancaster County and the second largest in all three counties, behind only Rock Hill.
Lake Wylie is in the same boat. Unincorporated, its most recent population update is for 2017. Lake Wylie is recognized as a census designated place offering a little more specific numbers.
The 2017 estimate of 12,170 people is a 46% increase since 2010. It’s an increase of 3,808 people.
If Lake Wylie were a city or town, it would rank third largest in York County behind Rock Hill and Fort Mill. Lake Wylie has about twice as many residents as the town it shares an area code with -- Clover.
A new record 74,309 people live in Rock Hill. The 2018 estimate is a 2% increase in a year, 12% since the 2010 census. The 8,155 new residents since 2010 outnumber the entire populations of Clover, Chester, Kershaw and smaller municipalities in the area.
If Rock Hill were its own county, it would rank 19th in the state for total population. Rock Hill has more residents than the white-hot Fort Mill, Tega Cay, upper Indian Land and Lake Wylie areas combined, with roughly the population of Chester to spare.
York today is the size Lake Wylie was in 2010. The county seat has 8,235 residents.
York is up 1% in a year and 6% since 2010. York is the fourth largest municipality in its namesake county. It’s fifth in the tri-county area, with Lancaster at less than 1,000 more residents. York does have a since-2010 growth rate well lower not only than larger York County municipalities like Rock Hill and Fort Mill, but also much smaller ones including McConnells, Hickory Grove and Smyrna.
Up to an estimated 6,397 residents, Clover continues a steady climb since the 2010 census. The town is up 5% in a year and 26% since 2010.
Clover has a single-year growth rate on par with Tega Cay, one of the highest-growth municipalities in the region the past decade. Clover has more than twice the growth rate Rock Hill does since 2010, but only a little more than half what Indian Land, Lake Wylie and Tega Cay have.
Lancaster is closing in on five digits, with a 2018 estimated population at 9,175 people. That number is up just 13 people in a year, and actually is down from the high estimate of 9,208 in 2016. Lancaster has, though, grown by 8% since 2010. That’s a higher growth rate than York or Chester, among county seat cities.
Lancaster is the largest tri-county municipality outside York County. It’s the fourth largest overall, though also behind unincorporated Indian Land and Lake Wylie.
Chester lost an estimated 17 people from 2017 to 2018. It’s less than a 1% change for the city now at 5,393 residents. That figure is down 4% from the 2010 census.
Chester has a slightly higher rate of population decline than the county as a whole, the only one in the tri-county area on a downward trend. Chester is the smallest county seat in the tri-county area.
The second largest municipality in Lancaster County, Kershaw has an estimated population of 2,249 people. The 446-resident increase since 2010 is a 25% bump. The population has risen each year since at least 2010.
The second-largest municipality in Chester County is inching away from, rather than toward, the 2,000-resident mark. The town has an estimated 1,886 people now, down 5% since 2010. The decrease is a little more severe in Great Falls than it is for Chester County as a whole.
In York County, Sharon and Smyrna are up 22% to 603 and 55 residents respectively, McConnells is up 21% to 308 residents and Hickory Grove is up 20% to 529 residents.
In Lancaster County, Heath Springs is up 25% to 989 people. Van Wyck, which didn’t exist as a town in 2010, now has 557 people. That estimate is up 30% from what the census bureau believes that area had in 2010.
Chester County has communities going the opposite direction. Richburg has 262 residents, down 5% since 2010. Lowrys us down 4% to 193 people. Fort Lawn is down 14 residents from 2010, or 2%, to 881.
An estimated 274,118 people live in York County. That number is a 21% jump since the 2010 census. York is the seventh largest county by population, trailing only Greenville, Richland, Charleston, Horry, Spartanburg and Lexington.
The number of new people in York County since 2010 is greater than the entire estimated populations of 22 South Carolina counties. New York County residents — 48,045 of them — roughly equal the current municipal populations of Fort Mill, Tega Cay, Lancaster and York combined. Or, it’s about the population of Summerville.
The estimated 7,972 new people in York County from 2017 to 2018 ranked second in the state, third in percentage growth. Both York and Lancaster counties grew by an estimated 3% just from 2017 to 2018, trailing only Horry (3.5%) and Berkeley (3.1%) statewide.
For all the growth in York County, Lancaster County tops it. The estimated 95,380 Lancaster County residents account for a 24% increase since 2010. There are 18,728 new residents, or roughly another Fort Mill.
Most all of the new residential growth comes from the Indian Land area, though there are plans for major projects closer to Lancaster. The 2,756 new residents from 2017 to 2018 ranked ninth in the state, but fourth by percentage.
Lancaster County is the 16th largest South Carolina county by population.
Chester County hasn’t experienced the same trend as its neighbors to the northeast. The county is down 889 residents since 2010. The 3% drop is consistent for the county with a population that hasn’t varied more than 902 residents in that span.