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Rochester's population grows 24.4% since 2000

Rochester's population exploded 24.4 percent in the past decade to 106,760 in 2010, cementing its place as Minnesota's third-largest city, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Its growth rate led Minnesota's other major cities and was only exceeded by a few Twin Cities suburbs, such as Woodbury, Blaine and Lakeville.

"My expectation is that is going to continue on, and I am not seeing anything that is really going to threaten that growth," said State Demographer Tom Gillaspy.

Gillaspy said Rochester's strong health-care industry, led by Mayo Clinic, fueled its growth.

"There is certainly strong employment growth and employment opportunities in Rochester," he said. "You can give up a lot of things during the recession, when the money is tight, but giving up life-saving, health-care services may not be the first thing you give up. There is a certain advantage to that."

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The news also confirms that Rochester has exceeded 100,000, officially qualifying it to be a city of the first class, which carries certain statutory obligations and rights.

"It's a new era for us — a hundred grand," said Mayor Ardell Brede. "We should do something, I think, as a city, to commemorate we are officially at that level."

As the city has been growing, it has also been growing more diverse.

The city added nearly 21,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, census figures show.

About 12,000 of those new residents were white. Of the rest, about 3,600 were black, 2,900 were Hispanic or Latino, and 2,400 were Asian, according to the census.

Another way to think of those numbers: If you took a typical group of seven people from the new batch of residents, four would be white and three would be non-white.

"That's not surprising," said Brede. "In some ways, I'm a little surprised it's not 3-to-4 the other way."

It is why the city installed street signs reading, "We are building an inclusive community." The new census figures likely will prompt further, more tangible efforts — possibly re-examining some city policies and services, such as park and recreation activities, Brede said.

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Rochester's growing diversity is an issue for the private-sector, too.

The Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce launched a Diversity in Business initiative  to prepare entrepreneurs from the ranks of immigrants, women and military veterans, said Jess Ihrke, a chamber vice president overseeing education and workforce development.

"The last three to four years, there has been more of a keen focus on that," Ihrke said.

The initiative includes online resources, occasional training sessions, and monthly, diversity-focused "round-table" events held at the chamber offices — "both of them fill the boardroom," Ihrke said.

"This is a key factor to our long-term prosperity," Ihrke said. "We need to foster inclusive work forces and an inclusive community."

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