The city has seen almost-zero percent growth since 2010, according to researchers

If trends shown in a recent Portland State University study hold true, Hillsboro could rival Gresham for the title of fourth-largest city in Oregon by the late 2020s.

The report out Tuesday, Nov. 18, shows Gresham’s population growth holding steady — just 0.8 percent over 2010 numbers — after a boom of 17 percent in the first decade of the millennium.

Meanwhile, Hillsboro — currently the fifth-largest city — and Portland are humming along with about 3 percent growth over the same period.

"Housing unit growth in Gresham has not recovered as fast as in Hillsboro," said Risa Proehl, Population Estimates program manager at the Population Research Center at PSU.

“The numbers aren’t any cause for alarm or concern,” says Gresham spokesperson Wendy Lawton noting that the early estimated annual growth rate in Gresham is 0.26 percent compared to Portland's 1.59 percent and Hillsboro's 0.99 percent. “It’s not much of a difference.”

The PSU researchers estimate Gresham will have 106,455 people in 2014, adding just 275 people in the last year. Since 2013, Portland has grown 9,390 people to 601,510.

In revised figures provided by the City of Hillsboro, Hillsboro added nearly 2,000 people in the last year to a population of 95,310.This would make Hillsboro's annual growth rate over the last year nearly double the early estimate.

ERA Realtor BIL Willis says he believes the area’s lack of major industries and the bitter east wind both contribute to the slower growth. Willis says the area’s real estate market also seems to be steady — and that’s a good thing.

“We like to see a steady market. And a plateau every so often, which I believe we’re in now, is not a bad thing,” Willis says, noting that it helps property owners adjust to a new price reality.

“Gresham has traditionally been more agriculture-based and tends to be more conservative in its approach towards business, towards life, towards everything,” Willis said. “It seems that that also falls over into the real estate arena as well.”

Gresham Police Department spokesperson Sgt. John Rasmussen says any population growth, no matter how small, affects the officer-to-citizen ratio.

“We were understaffed years ago and our population has only increased. And our staffing has not,” Rasmussen said, adding: "Chief (Craig) Junginger notes that whether or not Gresham remains the fourth-largest city in Oregon or becomes the fifth-largest city, the high-quality services the police department provides to the citizens will remain the same.”

Lawton, with the city, echoed those sentiments.

“We have a great community in Gresham. We’ve got terrific people, strong businesses, great transit,” she said. “It’s a great place to live and we’re working to keep it strong and make it better, again, regardless of what the population numbers are.”

Lawton noted several efforts the mayor and city council have done to boost economic development in the area, including a pledge in August to guarantee turn-around time for industrial development applications.

“The mayor and city council are very, very focused on bringing great companies and jobs here and that’s something that we’ll continue to do,” she said.

Lawton also said she felt it would be dangerous to read too much into the PSU report without further in-depth study of the many forces at work to contribute to population growth.

The lead researcher, Proehl, agreed.

“...if current trends continue (meaning assuming recent population growth rates), it would take a little longer than 10 years for Hillsboro's population to surpass Gresham's, although it would be possible, though,” she said. “It would depend on how growth rates change in the next few years. It is hard to predict without a conducting more in-depth study, though.

“Also, remember, the 2014 population estimates are preliminary and are subject to revision.”

Download the Excel document on population rates.

See more of the PSU research.

By Shasta Kearns Moore
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UPDATED 11/25/14: Reflect updated population numbers in Hillsboro from earlier estimates of 94,260 to current 95,310.

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