For the first time in decades, Denver County was the fastest-growing county in the metro area, clocking in at an estimated 610,000 residents. The 2010 Census is a once in a decade opportunity for the city to capitalize on these population shifts, and in doing so attract the public and private investments needed to fuel economic recovery over the next ten years.
Only a successful 2010 Census can help Denver gets its fair share of the over the $400 billion in federal and state funding that is distributed based on population data. This means for every household counted, the city receives funding to use for hiring teachers, repairing roads, building public transportation and other critical services. Without these resources, city and state leaders cannot plan and provide for the needs of a growing population.
The census is more than a population survey for the government; the ten-minute survey is also an invaluable source of intelligence for the private sector. Large and small businesses rely upon demographic data to make investment decisions, expand markets, open new stores, limit risk, and answer questions like: Will there be enough customers to support my new location? Can this area provide the workforce I need? For example, if a child care provider wants to open a new daycare center, he or she can use age and population figures to determine how many children currently live in a target area. And a grocery chain can use census data to determine whether a potential store is within driving distance of target customers.
For retailers and other businesses, an accurate portrait of Denver's growing population reveals growing markets. A full count will help Denver demonstrate its market potential to investors looking to determine whether the region has enough customers to support new services or the workforce necessary to staff new franchises. And more than ever, businesses will need to rely on this information to maximize scarce resources and minimize the risks of major ventures.
In 2000, seven out of ten Denver residents responded to the census by mail, one of the highest response rates in the country. But a successful census in 2000 doesn't guarantee an accurate count this time around. Many Americans today are wary of government intrusion, leaving many hesitant to answer the federal survey. Foreclosures have also drastically increased homelessness and forced people into irregular living situations that will further complicate an accurate count. And so far, only 32% of Denver County households have mailed back their surveys. Concerned about government spending? Consider this: for every one percent improvement in the Census mail response rate, the government saves about $80 million in taxpayer dollars. After April 1, Census Bureau workers will begin making calls and knocking on doors in the massively expensive outreach effort to unresponsive households.
Without a full census count, local and state governments, already cash-strapped and facing budget shortfalls, will not receive adequate federal funding for public services; and businesses will be discouraged from investing in struggling communities. The 2000 Census missed nearly 6.4 million people across the country. But this time around, we can't afford anything less than a full count of every resident, every consumer, and every worker in every neighborhood. Far too much is at stake.