Grove City Manager Bruce Johnson said one of the challenges the city currently faces is keeping up with the growth it is experiencing.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal regarding a national trend whereby affluent retirees are moving to rural areas could have been written specifically about Grove, Johnson said.
The article stated that “broad swaths” of scenic rural America are undergoing a change in demographics.
A senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute said that 76 percent more people over the age of 50 moved to “recreation counties” in the 1990s than in the 1980s.
On a national map, Delaware County was one of two counties in Oklahoma affected by this trend.
“We have had a 21 ½ percent increase in population since the 2000 census,” Johnson said. “That makes Grove one of the fastest growing cities in the state. Our challenge is managing that growth – planning for new people and new types of people.”
He said that the population of Grove is currently about 6,237.
According to the Wall Street Journal, many rural areas are now supporting businesses like spas, organic food markets, and interior design stores.
Johnson said some of the businesses in Grove already reflect a changing demographic.
In recent years, downtown Grove has seen art galleries, interior design stores, coffee shops, and internet cafes spring up.
“I counted three art galleries in our downtown area,” Johnson said. “Not many communities our size have businesses like that.”
Grove’s growth is also reflected in a steady increase in sales taxes collected.
During the 2005-2006 fiscal year, collected sales taxes in Grove increased by three percent. Fiscal year 2006-2007 saw an even greater increase of 5.9 percent from the previous year. So far, the 2008-2009 fiscal year has shown a 4.2 percent increase.
Another indicator is the value of property in the area.
Though home prices are on the decline in many areas, they are remaining stable or increasing in some rural “recreational” areas, and Grove is no exception.
Johnson said commercial property values in Grove are also very high compared to other Oklahoma towns.
“We have higher property values here than anywhere else in the state,” Johnson said. “Home and lot values are increasing.”
As baby boomers and others continue to relocate in remote and scenic areas, Grove will likely continue to grow, along with the demand for new businesses.
Among Johnson’s plans for the future of Grove is a hotel/motel tax to fund a visitors’ bureau.
“We want to get more tourists to stay and spend money. That way our citizens will have less tax burden and more services,” he said.
In addition, Johnson said the city is funding new equipment for the fire department and the police department; encouraging new businesses to locate in Grove; upgrading the wastewater treatment facility; acquiring grants to fund a new aquatic center and to complete phase II of the Downtown Revitalization Project; and completing the Olympus North cemetery.