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Into the future: 10 stories to look for in 2013

Published 10:52am Wednesday, January 2, 2013

5. Austin growing in population and diversity

The city’s population increased by more than 1,000 people to 24,719 residents between 2000 and 2010, and there are no signs Austin’s growth will slow down any time soon.

Austin Public Schools is projected to increase by another 400 students within five years, with a huge jump in student population projected this fall, according to a 2009 demographer’s report. Those projections were based on births in Mower County, driving the school district to address its growth by building a new intermediate school named after former Hormel Foods Corp. President and CEO I.J. Holton.

Although many Latino families left Austin in 2011 and 2012, more families and people looking for work moved into the area. The Welcome Center recently hired a Karen interpreter to make way for a wave of Burmese refugees expected to move to Austin, as many Karen, Karenni, Chin, and other Burmese refugees already work at local meatpacking plants.

The increase in young families of color in Austin mirrors a state and U.S. trend of more immigrants moving to rural centers housing large food processing manufacturers. Though immigration has slowed nationally, Austin shows no signs of slowing its growth, with more businesses and organizations expanding or moving in order to accommodate the influx of people and needs.

“It’s good to see the city grow,” said Mayor Tom Stiehm. “It makes us more diverse, it makes us a more interesting city, that’s for sure.”

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