Bragging rights for “biggest city in Umatilla County” continues as Hermiston edges closer to Pendleton.

The latest numbers come from the Population Research Center at Portland State University. These are estimates. The actual census numbers for 2010 will be out soon.

Meanwhile, the center’s numbers estimate Hermiston grew 165 last year to 16,380 or about 1 percent. Pendleton grew 30 or about .1% to 17,545. This includes about 1,600 inmates at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution.

The statistics from 2000 show Hermiston has jumped from 13,260 to an estimated 16,380 today. This is an average growth rate of 312 a year.

Pendleton edged up over the same period of time by 116 a year from 16,385 to 17,545.

It is fun to project these numbers forward. Of course this is not how it will happen. But still, if the growth rates continue at the same levels, Hermiston will surpass Pendleton around 2016 with a population of 18,252.

Then too this is just a Hermiston vs. Pendleton comparison. Umatilla sits right next to Hermiston and would be a part of the same statistical area were the cities big enough to be measured in that fashion. This is how the Tri-Cities are combined by the census bureau to yield a SMS or Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Umatilla, according to Portland State, gained about 40 people over the past year to reach a population of 6,570, including about 1,800 inmates at Two Rivers Correctional Institution. Taken together, Hermiston/Umatilla have a population estimated at 22,955.

Then, of course, there are another 1,910 people in Irrigon, an increase of 30 over the past year.  The entire county had a population of 72,720.

It is this last number that is most significant. The county’s population represents 1.9 percent of Oregon’s total population estimate of 3,844,195.

We will never control state-wide elections with less than 2 percent of the population. However, taken together, the population of Hermiston, Pendleton, Umatilla and the rest of the county does equal a small city. The growth also shows an economy that is moving upward.

No doubt we will all have a lot of fun in the west-end of Umatilla County when Hermiston actually does surpass Pendleton as the largest city in this part of the state.

The Duck fans will likely lord it over the Beaver fans if this weekend's Civil War battle turns out as expected.

So why not have a little fun here too, if/when Hermiston does become No. 1 in the county.

Throughout the city’s history, Hermiston has played the role of scrappy underdog. We will soon need to take on a new role, as the benevolent big dog in the county.

Still we need to keep in mind that it is by working together for the good of all of Umatilla County, as well as Morrow County, that our region can continue to progress.

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