People moving in from other states the main reason for rising S.C. population

People moving in from other states made South Carolina the nation's 10th-fastest growing state in 2016. One result has been the need for more houses and schools, new bridges and wider roads. Shown here, the since-completed widening of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard/U.S. Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant. File

South Carolina’s population was the 10th-fastest growing in the nation over the past year and will likely top 5 million in 2017, statistics released by the Census Bureau Tuesday show.

Having eclipsed Alabama's population last year, South Carolina is now closing in on Minnesota, currently the 22nd-largest state.

“I just can’t believe South Carolina has that many people," said Minnesota native David Wood, 49, who moved to South Carolina in 2000. “It’s incredible that we have that many people here, without a major metropolitan area."

Minneapolis has a population larger than South Carolina's three largest cities, combined.

Jonathan Maze, 46, used to live in West Ashley but returned to his native Minnesota more than 10 years ago and lives in the Minneapolis suburbs. Maze, a former Post and Courier reporter, said traffic in the Charleston area was "very annoying" even a decade ago, and he can't imagine how the area is coping with rapid growth.

“My concern would be, it’s not very easy to adapt that area to a rising population," said Maze, now senior financial editor at Nations Restaurant News. 

Minnesota's population has been growing, but not as much as South Carolina's. Maze said older people tend to leave for warmer climates.

"It’s not uncommon for people to retire to other states, because the winters are pretty brutal here," he said. “This weekend it was 24 below zero."

Wood, who now lives with his family in Mount Pleasant and is a partner and the creative director at digital brand agency Blue Ion in Charleston, said if South Carolina does become larger than Minnesota, he doesn't think residents of his native state would really care.

“Up in Minnesota there’s a saying — ‘Minnesota nice’ — so even if they did care, they wouldn’t say so," said Wood.

During the 12 months ending July 1, South Carolina State gained 66,285 residents. More than two-thirds of the growth was due to people moving in from other states.

Only six states gained more population from domestic migration — the difference between the numbers of people moving in from other states and moving out to other parts of the nation. For South Carolina, that's a continuation of a long-running growth trend.

Much of the state's growth has been concentrated along the coast, and nearly all has been in urban and suburban areas.

Last year, census data showed that the three most rapidly growing metropolitan areas on the U.S. Atlantic Coast were all in the Palmetto State — for the third year in a row. Those areas were the multi-county Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Charleston metro areas.

And within the Charleston metro area, the town of Mount Pleasant was the fastest-growing city east of the Mississippi River in 2015, among those with at least 50,000 residents. 

Reach David Slade at 843-937-5552 and follow him on Twitter @DSladeNews.

David Slade is a senior Post and Courier reporter. His work has been honored nationally by Society of Professional Journalists, American Society of Newspaper Editors, Scripps foundation and others. Reach him at 843-937-5552 or dslade@postandcourier.com