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franklin county times

Meridian population declining

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 10, 2001
Meridian officials say they were not surprised that Census 2000 data showed a declining population in the city, but they were surprised to see the racial demographics of the city change so drastically in just 10 years.
Smith was referring to a reversal in the city's racial composition.
In 1990 census statistics showed Caucasian citizens accounted for 54.11 percent of the overall population, while African-Americans comprised 45.39 percent of the total population. Census 2000 results showed a reversal of that trend with African-Americans now having a 54.37 percent majority of all citizens and Caucasians making up only 43.99 percent of the total population.
Although Smith said the racial statistics were surprising, he said city leaders expected the city's overall population to decrease. Overall the city's population dropped by just more than 1,000 from 41,036 in 1990 to 39,968 in 2000.
Although declining by 2.6 percent, Meridian managed to hold on to its status as the sixth most populous city in Mississippi, two spots behind its neighbor to the south, Hattiesburg. Hattiesburg was the state's 10th fastest growing city over the last decade, increasing by 6.9 percent.
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith said the restructuring in Meridian's racial demographics did not come as much of a surprise to him as it did to some leaders.
Mayor Smith said city leaders are already working to address some of the problems that occur when a decrease in population happens to a city, including a shrinking tax base and lose of revenue.
According to Mayor Smith, the industrial park will form the backbone for new growth in the city, but details about how to better spark growth in Meridian will be provided by the Grow Meridian Team.
Smith formed the 15-member team four months ago to develop new strategies to grow population and tax base.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.