Population growth in Fort Mill SC drives York County to move east


Retired Fort Mill Police Chief Jeff Helms, left, shakes hands with SC Governor Henry McMaster Thursday in Fort Mill.  McMaster gave Helms the Order of the Palmetto – SC's highest civilian honor

Retired Fort Mill Police Chief Jeff Helms, left, shakes hands with SC Governor Henry McMaster Thursday in Fort Mill. McMaster gave Helms the Order of the Palmetto – SC’s highest civilian honor

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In one year, Fort Mill added more residents than all but two other cities or towns in South Carolina.

The US Census Bureau released new population estimates for municipalities nationwide on Thursday. The numbers show estimates as of July 1, 2021, compared to that same date in 2020. Of the 270 incorporated venues in South Carolina, most of those in York and surrounding counties have increased.

Fort Mill’s estimated 27,991 residents in mid-2021 represent a year-over-year increase of 2,736. These estimates do not include the large number of people with addresses in Fort Mill that are not within the city limits, including Baxter and the Carowinds Corridor. Figures for unincorporated companies or townships were released with recent data.

Only the slightly larger municipalities of Bluffton (increase of 3,457) and Greer (3,068) grew by more people than Fort Mill. If Fort Mill’s number of new residents were its own city, it would rank in the top 100 in the state (#95).

Growth of York County

In one year, York County increased by approximately the population of Clover. Yet much of the county’s population lives in unincorporated areas like Lake Wylie or beyond the outskirts of Rock Hill and York.

Of York County’s estimated 288,595 residents as of mid-2021, about 54% live outside the nine cities and towns.

Rock Hill has not grown in recent years at the rate of Fort Mill, but it is still the largest population center in the county. Rock Hill’s estimated 74,102 residents as of mid-2021 represent nearly 26% of the county’s total. However, the population of the city is down by 55 inhabitants in one year.

Fort Mill represents nearly 10% of York County’s population. Tega Cay is next with almost 5%.

The trends have been visible for over a decade. The 56% of York County residents who lived outside the city or town limits in 2010 is not far off the current mark of 54%. Yet a greater percentage of county residents come each year from areas closest to Interstate 77 and the North Carolina border with Charlotte.

Rock Hill had 29% of the county’s population in 2010, 3% more than today. Fort Mill had less than 5%, about half of what it has now. Tega Cay had about 3% of the county’s total, just over half of what it has now.

Since 2010, the county has grown by more than 62,000 residents. Or, almost as many people as Rock Hill lived in 2010. That’s a growth rate of almost 28%.

During this period, Fort Mill and Tega Cay combine to account for 41,269 additional residents, approximately two-thirds of this countywide growth rate. Rock Hill has grown by 7,948 residents since 2010.

Although not reflected in the new data, years of new homebuilding trends in the area show similar growth in two other Charlotte border areas. Lake Wylie in York County and Indian Land in Lancaster County remain among the fastest growing areas in the region.

Lake Wylie and Indian Lands are unincorporated areas. Their growth is reflected in the countywide totals for their respective counties.

Here’s a look at year-over-year growth for municipalities in York, Lancaster and Chester counties:

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John Marks graduated from Furman University in 2004 and joined the Herald in 2005. He covers community growth, municipalities, transportation and education primarily in York and Lancaster counties. The Fort Mill native has won dozens of South Carolina Press Association awards and several President McClatchy Awards for news coverage in Fort Mill and Lake Wylie.
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