By the numbers: Lyon County bucking population trend in western Minnesota

MARSHALL – Though Minnesota as a whole is growing, most of the growth in population has been in the Twin Cities, leaving the rural western counties behind. But there are a few exceptions, among them Lyon County.

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) is the state’s principle economic development agency, charged with the mission of promoting business, trade, and community development.

Though most of the western counties south of the Fargo-Moorhead area continue to lose population, Lyon, Nobles and Kandiyohi counties have actually grown, according to analyses of census data from 2000 and 2010, conducted for DEED by Cameron Macht, central and southwest regional analyst.

Macht provided the Independent with DEED demographic studies of Lyon, Lincoln, and Yellow Medicine counties, concentrating on the changes between the last two censuses.

Lyon County is home to 25,857 people, as compared to Yellow Medicine County, 10,158, and Lincoln County, 5,896.

Yellow Medicine County peaked in 1940 at 16,917, and Lincoln County in 1930, at a population of 11,303.

Lincoln and Yellow Medicine County both have populations older than the state’s.

In Lincoln County about 25 percent of the population is 65 and older, about double the state’s average.

In Yellow Medicine County about 19.5 percent of the population is 65 or older, compared with a statewide average of about 13 percent.

However, Lyon County is both older and younger than the state average.

Lyon has a larger percentage of children aged 4 and under, 7.2 percent, than the state average of 6.7 percent. At the same time the percentage of seniors in Lyon County was 13.9 percent at the last census, compared to 12.9 percent for the state.

According to the census data, only Lyon and Nobles counties have a natural rate of increase; Kandiyohi County’s population growth is because of in-migration.

In spite of some job losses in the non-farm sector over the last three years, Lyon County is still economically healthy. And despite a popular perception of depending on a few large firms, employment is driven by small business.

Fifty-four percent of Lyon County businesses have one to four employees, another 18 percent have five to nine, 14 percent have 10 to 19, and 11 percent have 20 to 99 employees. In addition 1,590 people are counted as self-employed businesspersons.

Less than 3 percent of Lyon County businesses have 100 or more employees. Most county businesses are in the manufacturing, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, educational services, and hospitality industries.

Yellow Medicine County has 366 business establishments, and about 35 percent of total employment is in the public sector.

Lincoln County has 218 businesses, and in spite of population decline actually gained 32 jobs during the last three years. The largest employment sector is health care and social assistance, followed by retail trade.