While most Nebraska counties experienced a decline in population, Seward County grew by 5.13% from 2010 to 2020, according to federal census data released in August. Out of 93 counties, Seward saw the ninth highest increase in the state of Nebraska.
According to the United States Census Bureau, 24 Nebraska counties increased in population while 69 counties decreased in population.
Of the counties that saw increases, Sarpy County led the way with a 20% increase in population from the years 2010 to 2020. In 2010, Sarpy County’s population was 158,840 and increased to 190,604. Douglas and Lancaster counties saw the second and third highest increases by growing 13% each. Douglas County’s population in 2010 was 517,110 and increased to 584,526. Lancaster County increased from 285,407 in 2010 to 322,608 in 2020. Of the counties that saw decreases, McPherson County in the Sandhills saw its population go down 26%. In 2010 McPherson County had 539 and decreased to 399 by 2020. Rock County and Dundy County followed, both decreasing over 17% over the 10-year span. In 2010, Rock County had 1,526 and decreased to 1,262 by 2020. Dundy County, in 2010, was at 2,008 and decreased to 1,654 by 2020.
Jonathan Jank, president and CEO of Seward County Chamber and Development Partnership, and Zane Francescato, SCCDP development & government affairs director, both said they are pleased with the rate of growth for Seward County.
In 2010, Seward County had a population of 16,750 which increased to 17,609 according to the 2020 census, showing a 5.13% increase.
“We don’t want to grow for the sake of growing, and we think we are moving at a pretty good pace,” Jank said.
About 50 homes are added per year in the county. Jank said building homes is crucial to a growing community. He said having more available homes attracts people to a community. Jank said communities need to be proactive in housing development efforts, which in turn welcomes workforce in and around the community.
“This affirms where our priorities are as an organization and that we need to continue to move even more into housing and workforce development to support our local businesses that are looking to grow,” Jank said.
Francescato said he completed a housing study in October 2019 to help project housing needs for 2024 but was surprised by the census data that came out.
“The study said we’d be at 17,546 people in 2024, and census data says we’re at 17,609, so we grew a bit more than we originally thought we would,” Francescato said.
Based on the data, Seward County is a popular place to live.
“It seems like a lot of growth is happening along the interstate like Sarpy County and Douglas County because of the close proximity to large cities,” Josh Eickmeier, Seward mayor, said.
Eickmeier said he often hears that people choose Seward because their job is in Lincoln but they want to raise a family in a smaller community similar to one they grew up in. He said many people who live in Seward find value in places that have a small town feel. Seward is a 25-minute drive from Lincoln. People drive to work, attend concerts and go to football games to name a few. Eickmeier said having Concordia University also attracts people.
“I’ve had a number of Concordia graduates say they had no intentions to stay but they ended up liking the community and staying in Seward,” Eickmeier said.
Seward is known for its annual Independence Day celebration. According to July Fourth Seward, Seward celebrated its 152nd annual event in 2021 which drew over 50,000 people. Eickmeier said various reasons bring people to Seward but it’s the community itself that draws people in.
Eickmeier agrees with Jank and said he doesn’t want Seward County to grow just for the sake of growing but that he is happy about the growth.
“Each family and individual needs to go their own path and fortunately many roads lead to Seward,” Eickmeier said.
The city of Seward currently has a population of 7,240 people. Seward has increased 3.96% since 2010 when the population was at 6,964 people.