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New population estimates: Montgomery County passes Roanoke

Montgomery County has surpassed Roanoke as the largest municipality west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, according to the newest population estimates from the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

Montgomery County, which saw its population steadily grow throughout the past decade, had a population of 100,073 in 2019, up from 99,433 the year before, according to Weldon Cooper Center data released Monday.

Roanoke’s population fell from 100,033 to 99,348, according to the most recent data.

Roanoke had surpassed the 100,000 mark in 2018, the first time since the 1980s that the city reached a six-figure population.

Montgomery County — which had been projected to overtake Roanoke as Western Virginia’s largest municipality — had never crossed the 100,000 mark, according to Weldon Cooper Center data.

Montgomery County has benefited from the growth spurred by Virginia Tech.

“I think there’s two factors: one is students coming in. Their [Tech’s] enrollment is growing,” said Hamilton Lombard, a Weldon Cooper research and policy analyst.

Lombard said the overenrollment of incoming students that occurred at Tech last fall was likely a contributor to Montgomery County’s recent growth.

Tech enrolled 1,004 freshmen above its goal of 6,600 for the current school year. The issue, which drew national headlines and concerns from local government officials, prompted the university to spend nearly $9 million to convert a Holiday Inn Express and 109 rooms at the Inn at Virginia Tech into student housing.

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