Bowling Green remains firmly ensconced as the third-largest city in Kentucky – with its a population topping 70,000 for the first time – but it has lost the distinction of being Kentucky’s fastest-growing city.
According to 2019 data released Thursday by the U.S Census Bureau, Bowling Green’s 2019 population was 70,543, trailing only Louisville (617,638) and Lexington (323,152).
But after many years as being the fastest-growing city in the state with a population of more than 10,000, Bowling Green has been eclipsed by Georgetown.
Georgetown, near Lexington, grew from 29,138 in 2010 to 34,992 in 2019, an increase of 5,854 residents for a 20.1 percent growth rate. Bowling Green was No. 2 in growth rate at 18.7 percent, going from 59,407 residents in 2010 to 70,543 – an increase of 11,136.
Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said he hopes the city’s continued growth “shows people find Bowling Green a wonderful place to live, as I do.”
He said the continued growth shows the region’s investment in the economy is paying off – “no one wants to move to a dying community,” he said. “We want a sustained level of growth” going forward, he said.
The city’s population was 68,401 in 2018.
The more detailed 2020 census operation is underway, with officials working amid the coronavirus pandemic to urge residents to self-report.
“We are working very hard on it,” said Bowling Green City Commissioner Sue Parrigin, who leads the local Complete Count Census Committee that is working to encourage local census participation.
The city has entered a friendly competition with Owensboro regarding which city has a higher self-reporting rate. Owensboro is the fourth-largest city in the state with 60,131 residents as of 2019.
As of Friday, Owensboro had a self-response census rate of 71.6 percent while Bowling Green was at 55.6 percent.
Parrigin said the local effort has been stymied in part by the exodus of Western Kentucky University students due to the coronavirus pandemic that has closed most of the university’s in-person activity.
Full-time WKU students are counted as Bowling Green residents, but many now living at home might not be self-reporting. Students who live in dorms will be counted as Bowling Green residents, but not in the current self-reporting period.
“We were counting on that to push us ahead,” Parrigin said, but committee leaders are working to continue to push self-reporting until the Oct. 31 deadline.
Kentucky as a whole was at a 63.6 percent self-response rate as of Friday.