Census shows local growth, increasing minority populations

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke thanks the American public for its overwhelming response to the 2010 Census at a news conference unveiling the first results from the 2010 Census on December 21, 2010. -CONTRIBUTED

The 2010 U.S. Census confirms what town officials have known for a long time—local towns are welcoming more minorities into their communities than ever before.

Naugatuck, Prospect, and Beacon Falls have all grown slightly in the ten years since the last census.  However, most of that growth comes from Hispanic or Latino, black, and Asian peoples.

The trend follows the statewide trend, which has seen a slight percentage decrease in whites coupled with a 49.6 percent increase in Hispanic or Latino since 2000.

While Naugatuck saw an overall increase of 873 people in the past ten years, the Hispanic or Latino population grew by 1,543, as the white population decreased by 735.

Recognizing the importance of welcoming and integrating emerging populations into the community, Naugatuck Mayor Bob Mezzo created the Cultural Council to recognize the borough’s diverse populations and celebrate their cultural heritage.

“We created the Naugatuck Cultural Council last summer with full knowledge that the demographics were changing. We didn’t really need the census data to indicate that, although it does give us some specifics,” Mezzo said.

Naugatuck Mayoral aide and Cultural Council member Ed Carter said he anticipated the changes in demographics.

“It definitely shows how the town has changed from a blue-collar factory town to a town of many cultures,” Carter said.

Mezzo felt that people from south and west come to Naugatuck because the value of similar homes is much less than in Fairfield or Westchester.

“I think it indicates that Naugatuck, even during the recession, is still an attractive community because of relatively moderate housing prices,” Mezzo said.

Carter agreed that the census shows that Naugatuck is an affordable living community.

“For all our good points and bad points, I think people recognize that Naugatuck is a good place to live,” Carter said.

He said as the population diversifies, the commercial environment will start to reflect that.

There are already many new ethnic restaurants along Rubber Avenue, Carter said. He expects to see a growth in retail stores that cater to specific cultures as well.

As the borough’ grows more diverse, Carter said he hopes to recognize additional groups of people through more mayor-of-the-day celebrations.

“We just want to ensure that we are continuing to welcome families from diverse backgrounds and emerging populations,” Mezzo said.

Naugatuck’s total population is now 31,862.

Beacon Falls gained 803 people for a total of 6,049, while Prospect gained 698 for a total population of 9,405.

The fastest growing population in Beacon Falls was Hispanic or Latino, which more than doubled to 2.9 percent.

The Black population increased slightly to 1.6 percent of the total population, while the White population lost decreased, putting them at 94.9 percent.

Beacon Falls’ First Selectman Susan Cable said she was happy with the town’s population increase. She said she suspected that the population had topped 6,000 but others still put it around 5,000.

“People realize that we have a very nice quality of life in Beacon Falls,” Cable said.

Cable said the town’s small increase in minority populations was not as important as the overall increase.

“People are people,” Cable said. “The more diversity, the better off we are.”

Cable said the town’s two over-55 communities have added to both the population and quality of life.

“They’re getting involved in the community, which is very positive too,” Cable said. “I believe Connecticut Magazine should start paying attention because I believe we are the best small town in the Naugatuck Valley,” Cable said.

In Prospect, whites gained the most overall, but still went down as a percentage of the total population as black, Hispanic or Latino, and mixed race populations grew.

Prospect Mayor Bob Chatfield said he wasn’t surprised by the town’s slight growth.

He said two new neighborhoods, Boulder Brook, a 55 and older community, and Regency of Prospect, have added to the population over the past ten years.

“I don’t see that as a big impact on the town,” Chatfield said.

Chatfield said he was more concerned with the ages of newcomers, which will impact the town’s responsibility to care for the elderly, educate children, or address the needs of special needs citizens.

By the numbers

Naugatuck

Total population 31,862 (+873)

White 27,700 (-735)

Black/African American 1,575 (+693)

Asian 969 (+447)

Hispanic/Latino of any race 2,929 (+1,543)

Prospect

Total population 9,405 (+698)

White 8,964 (+598)

Black/African American 177 (+53)

Asian 73 (+10)

Hispanic/Latino of any race 312 (+144)

Beacon Falls

Total population 6,049 (+803)

White 5,741 (+654)

Black/African American 95 (+57)

Asian 70 (+16)

Hispanic/Latino of any race 300 (+188)