As some of America's small towns begin to vanish, others see record growth

Just a few decades ago, Louisville, Colo., an agricultural town near Boulder, had a population just under 6,000.

From 1980 to 2016, thanks to astounding growth, the population grew to 20,800 people.

"Probably one of the biggest attractions to this community," explains Mayor Bob Muckle, "is it's kind of small town character largely based around Main Street."


As small towns across the country vanish, other rural communities are experiencing an unprecedented boom.

louisville 2

Louisville, Colorado was named Money Magazine’s 2009 “Best Place to Live.” Once an agricultural hamlet, its population nearly quadrupled in four decades.  (FOX NEWS)

Fifty four percent of American small towns are shrinking, according to Pew Research Center, and northeastern states like New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania are among the worst hit. But as those town virtually disappear, others are blossoming.

Louisville took first place on Money magazine's 2009 “Best Places to Live” list, and has made the top 10 three times since.

"We've gotten maybe more national exposure than we need," laughs Mayor Bob Muckle. "We literally have had people read Money magazine and decide to move."


Vineyard, Utah is another success story. Its population of 4,000 may not sound impressive, but consider that in 2010 only 139 people lived there.

small town boom new york

On the flip side of the boom is Delaware County, New York, which is 130 from the Big Apple. Businesses are drying up and people are fleeing the small town.  (FOX NEWS)

According to a recent Pew analysis of towns with less than 10,000 people, the fastest growing regions were in southern and western states, with Utah, Colorado, Texas, Oregon and Washington leading the way.

Colorado State Demographer Elizabeth Garner said these communities share one thing in common.

"They're also the top leading states for job growth,” Garner said. “Jobs are people, so that's why we're seeing growth in those areas.”

But many of these small towns also share another attribute – they are close to large metropolitan cities like Salt Lake City, Denver and Seattle. These are regions enjoying vibrant, tech-industry driven economies that translate into low unemployment – but have exorbitant housing prices that, for many, are out of reach.

Nearby small towns are cheaper to live in, as well as attractive for their laid-back community feel.

Kathleen Treneer's family moved to the small community of Edgewood, Washington three years ago. She says the 30-mile commute to her Seattle job is worth it because when she gets home, she leaves the stress of big city life behind.

"I can get out on my Townie bike and I can ride around, and I can stop at the local cafe and coffee place,” she said. “It just has a really great feel to it."

But for every Edgewood, there is another small town that's struggling. Like Hancock, in Delaware County, New York – some two hours from the Big Apple.

"I've seen businesses dry up and go away," laments Rachel Forrester, 50, who has lived in the area her entire life. "People have to move because there's no work."

Chris Dascano moved away from Delaware County some 10 years ago, though he still comes back to get his hair cut at the local barbershop.

"They've got to have some industry," he said. "Some places for younger people to go to work, or even older people that have decided to go out of town to find jobs."

Back in Louisville, Mayor Muckle admits the problems of rapid growth are preferable to the alternative – towns struggling to survive.

"I really feel for people in smaller towns where they're just more isolated from a larger employment center,” he said. “It's a much harder problem, I think, than a small town situated where Louisville is."

Alicia Acuna joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 1997 and currently serves as a general assignment reporter based in the network's Denver bureau.