PLATO MISSOURI South of Waynesville_________________________________________________________________________
Tiny Missouri town is perfectly centered
Thursday, March 24, 2011
For the next 10 years, Plato, Mo. will be known as the population center of the U.S.
It's a hefty title for a tiny town in south-central Missouri, and is largely ceremonial. But it's the kind of announcement that comes with a great deal of attention. The official word was handed down this afternoon by the director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
Technically, the new population center sits 2.7 miles northeast of Plato, but the town is the closest municipality so gets the honor.
"I don't know that it means a whole lot, but it is something for a little, old community down here," said Bob Biram, chairman of Plato's board of trustees, before the spot was officially announced.
He received a call this morning from Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, congratulating him on the designation.
"I look forward to going out there and having a big celebration," Groves said during the announcement made in Washington, D.C.Determining the population center is a tradition of the Census Bureau because it helps show how the country's population is shifting.
Plato, for example, which sits in Texas County, is about 30 miles southwest of the 2000 census population center, Edgar Springs, a town in Phelps County. Edgar Springs is about 30 miles southwest of the 1990 census center, in Steelville.
The steady southwesterly progression of the population center since 1950 comes with the exploding growth in states such as Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Utah. Groves said the new population center was pulled south also by the growth in the southeast in places such as Georgia and the Carolinas.
The announcement Thursday was not a surprise for Plato. In December, someone created a Wikipedia entry naming Plato as the population center. A Connecticut radio station spotted the entry and made a story out of it. Then the local paper, the Houston Herald, published a story about the speculation.
Soon, the town of 109 residents was abuzz with where the exact spot would be. Smack dab in town or somewhere just outside.
The Wikipedia entry was made about the same time the Census Bureau released 2004-2009 population estimates; a bureau official surmised the population center was calculated from those estimates.
The town will hold an official ceremony in about a month, placing a marker naming Plato the "Census 2010 Center of Population." Groves plans to be there.
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