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Tulsa area population tops 1 million for first time, Census Bureau data says

Tulsa area population tops 1 million for first time, Census Bureau data says

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The Tulsa metropolitan area has officially joined the 1 million population club, making it eligible to better compete for economic development projects, according to area officials.

Estimates released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau put the July 1, 2020, population in the Tulsa metro area, officially called the metropolitan statistical area, at 1,006,411, a 0.7%, or 7,063 person, increase over the estimate for 2019.

The Tulsa metro area joins the Fresno, California, metro area as the two newcomers to the 1 million-plus club with the release Tuesday of the 2020 population estimates by the Census Bureau. The 2020 population estimate in the Fresno metropolitan area is just behind the Tulsa MSA’s at 1,000,918.

Officials say having the 1 million-plus population designation opens the door to the state to compete with larger cities on economic development projects.

Other metropolitan statistical areas on the lower end of the 1 million-plus population club include the Tucson, Arizona; Rochester, New York; and Grand Rapids-Kentwood, Michigan, MSAs.

Fifty-five metro areas in the U.S. now have populations of at least 1 million people, with Tulsa at No. 54.

The Oklahoma City metropolitan statistical area, meanwhile, added 15,387 people to its population between July 1, 2019, and July 1, 2020, for a total of 1,425,375.

Mike Neal, president and chief executive officer of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, said in a statement Tuesday that crossing the 1 million-person threshold offers the region a number of advantages.

“When companies evaluate prospective locations for a relocation or expansion, a metro area of more than 1 million people can often be a deciding factor,” Neal said. “Now that northeast Oklahoma clearly checks that box, we expect to compete against larger markets that have high labor and land costs.

“Our region’s low cost of living, short commute times and collaborative approach to economic development will continue to give us an edge as we ascend to this new tier of communities.”

Rich Brierre, executive director of the Indian Nations Council of Governments, said the 1 million population mark is a major threshold for major metropolitan areas for economic development.

“Crossing the 1 million population threshold will be a significant milestone for the metropolitan area,” Brierre said.

He said the metro-area population could grow even larger if additional counties are added to the Tulsa metropolitan statistical area. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget delineates metropolitan statistical areas and their smaller cousins, micropolitan statistical areas.

Currently, the Tulsa MSA is made up of the combined populations of Tulsa, Creek, Okmulgee, Osage, Pawnee, Rogers and Wagoner counties.

Brierre said there is some prospect that additional counties, such as Mayes County, could be added to the MSA.

“It will be interesting to see if additional counties are added based on urbanization and commuting patterns,” Brierre said.

The Census Bureau also released county-level population estimates for 2020.

Those results show the Tulsa County population increased by 0.8%, or from 652,166 in 2019 to 657,589 in 2020.

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