The 2010 Census figures for Georgia aren't out yet, but a sneak preview suggests Columbia County will once again be the area's big winner for population growth.
An American Community Survey annual estimate shows Columbia County's population grew by 28 percent between 2000 and 2010, from 89,288 to 115,010.
That outpaced the state's estimated growth rate, which was 21 percent, and the nation's, which was 10 percent. Growth for the Central Savannah River Area as a whole stood at 5 percent.
Columbia County's reputation as a safe community with good schools has made it an attractive home for employees from many of the area's top companies, Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson said.
"We try to create a quality of life here," Johnson said. "There are opportunities to shop and eat. We're close to both the lake and urban areas, so people see it as a place where they can enjoy the best of both worlds."
In Richmond County, the population continued its rebound from a mid-decade low of 195,654. The population was 199,775 in 2000 and returned to 200,590 in 2010, the estimate showed. Data through 2009 suggest Richmond County's five-year growth was not caused by migration into the county, but by births outnumbering deaths.
Georgia 2010 census figures are scheduled for release next week.
In Aiken County, the estimated growth rate was 10 percent for the decade, a high for the surrounding area, but below South Carolina's 14 percent overall. The state's largest gains were seen along the coast.
County Administrator Clay Killian said Aiken continues to be a community that draws outsiders, especially retirees.
"It's an attractive place to live. Our finances are stable. Our quality of life is good and our taxes are low," he said.
Doug Reese, a Blanchard and Calhoun Real Estate Co. sales manager, said steady stable jobs from Fort Gordon, Plant Vogtle and the Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics have insulated the area from many of the housing woes experienced around the rest of the country.
"We're fortunate in that new houses have been selling exceptionally well," Reese said. "We're seeing an average wait of four to five months to sell a new home. That's unheard of in this time."