FRANKLIN – With a robust housing market, confident job forecasts and ambitious plans for new developments, Williamson County’s longtime status as one of the region’s hottest areas doesn’t show any sign of abating.
Yet county leaders and developers say more steps must be taken now to create more diverse housing options for new residents and spur greater use of public transportation to ease wear on local roads.
New figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau and, separately by the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, track the county’s growth in the past and what’s predicted.
• Williamson was Tennessee’s fastest-growing county between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013, the census data show. Census officials said the state’s heaviest concentration of growth was in Williamson County where population grew 3.1 percent.
Williamson was followed by Rutherford County at 2.5 percent, Wilson County at 2.4 percent, Maury County at 2.1 percent and Sumner County at 1.8 percent.
• Looking ahead, local officials expect Williamson County will see its population of senior residents aged 65 and older to grow from around 20,000 people today to more than 40,000 by 2023, chamber figures show.
• Meanwhile, the county’s job market will see its biggest gains in the retail sales and financial-specialist fields where employers are expected to add thousands of new jobs over the next five years.
• Of Williamson County’s 98,800 workers, 54.5 percent live and work in Williamson County and make an average commute of 28 minutes. More than 34 percent of the labor force, or 28,910 residents, commute to Davidson County while 3 percent commute out of state to work.
Faced with the numbers, officials tempered their excitement with calls to make future adjustments to anticipate growth.
Chamber President Matt Largen said he hopes the figures will spark change among developers and planners about future developments.
“You think downsizing. You think about getting rid of your yard at some point. You think about how you’re going to get around in the community,” Largen said. “I think absolutely that needs to be taken in consideration by the planners and developers.”
As far as houses go, Franklin Mayor Ken Moore wants to see greater emphasis made on keeping new residents arrivals in Williamson County, rather than having them commute.
A longtime proponent of public transportation, Moore said he fears traffic problems will threaten the attractiveness of the region to homebuyers and companies.
“The message is not getting out that we’re going to have gridlock in 2035 if we don’t continue to address transit,” Moore said.
To aid in that, Moore wants to see more homes priced so that workers who might one day hold a retail job or financial analyst job could afford to live here. Moore said he wants to see more homes priced between $120,000 to $180,000. That’s a far cry from today where Franklin’s median home price is around $400,000.
“We don’t have enough diversity of housing,” Moore said.
Franklin will release more details about housing in the city on April 29 when consultants unveil the results of a months-long study.
Traffic and housing are integral parts of the three most high-profile projects in Williamson County — Franklin Park, Ovation and Berry Farms. Developers of all three say they must contend with traffic and hope to add a mixture of housing options for residents.
Reach Kevin Walters (615) 771-5472 or on Twitter @thekevinwalters
By the numbers
New residents between 2012 and 2013
9,801: Davidson County
6,925: Rutherford County
5,904: Williamson County
3,490: Knox County
3,093: Hamilton County
3,165 square feet on average in Williamson County
$433,862 average in Williamson County
Source: U.S. Census Bureau and Williamson County Chamber of Commerce