Whitestown’s population has risen 173 percent in just six years, a boom that will allow them to obtain more money from the state for its budget, and nine more liquor licenses.
According to a special census completed in November, the town’s current population is 7,814 — a huge increase from the 2,867 residents in 2010.
The town spent a total of $163,000 on the census, which will bring the community an additional $1.45 million in state and federal funds over the next four years. The largest portion of the money, about $320,000 total, will go to the town’s Motor Vehicle Highway Fund, Town Manager Dax Norton said at the town council meeting Wednesday night.
The state has allotted nine additional liquor licenses as well — three beer-only; three beer and wine; and three beer, wine and spirits.
Whitestown officials had estimated that the town would have between 6,000 and 6,800 residents before the census started, Norton said.
“I guess it is a surprise,” Norton said. “It’s tremendous growth in a six-year period.”
Estimates show that the population could grow to 12,000 by 2020, an approximately 300 percent increase in only 10 years.
Though such rapid growth can often outpace local governments, Norton said that Whitestown has been working to stay ahead of its population boom by attracting home developers, retailers and manufacturers, as well as expanding and upgrading infrastructure.
“There will be growing pains … It’s a balanced growth,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job of planning and keeping up with growth from a financial perspective.”
The town has made marketing itself to millennials a priority. One of the town council’s goals is to become the most bike-able and walk-able community in the state of Indiana.
To that end, the town is funding a $350,400 project to beautify Whitestown Parkway and make it a gateway into the community. The project, which will stretch between Perry Worth Road and Stonegate Drive, would include repaving the road, adding walking trails and lighting, installing pedestals for public art works and planting trees and other plants.
Laurie Christie, with engineering firm DLZ, said that the project and public art would make Whitestown stand out.
“If you could implement that … it would certainly make Whitestown a unique community in Central Indiana,” Christie said at the Wednesday meeting. “It really kind of puts you on the map.”
The town also plans to apply for a matching grant with the state government, that would help fund restoration on some of the building façades in the Legacy Core, Norton said.
The new focus on beautification and walkability are in response to the town’s demographic shift, he said.
“We’re marketing a product … We listened and know what that demographic wants,” Norton said. “It’s been very much proved that this new demographic (Millennials) is very willing to have their elected officials invest in making this place look very nice. It’s different than past generations. Past generations are very hard to get to want to spend big investments on landscaping, trees, because they have a different mindset.”
Census data shows that the town’s demographic has indeed become younger and more diverse as the years have gone by.
In 2000, the median age of all Whitestown residents was 35.2. By 2010 that number had dropped to 30, well below the Boone County median age of 38.6. The median age has stayed relatively the same as the 2010 number, at 30.7, in 2017.
In addition, the town has become more diverse. The special census shows a shift in the racial makeup of the town:
• In 2010, 91 percent of the population was white. In 2017 that number dropped to 83.8 percent. Boone County is 95.3 percent white, according to the 2010 census.
• Only 80 black residents, or 2.8 percent of the population, lived in Whitestown in 2010. That number nearly doubled by 2017 to 5.4 percent, or about 422 people.
• In 2010, 84 Asian people, 2.9 percent of the population, resided in Whitestown. That number rose to 6.4 percent in 2017, or about 500 people.
• The Hispanic population has risen from 100 people in 2010 to 276 in 2017, though the percentage of Hispanic residents — 3.5 percent of the population — has remained the same.
Andy Markle-Mackowiak, vice president of Whitestown’s Human Relations Commission, said that several factors have attracted diverse communities to Whitestown. First, it’s far enough from Indianapolis for young families to settle down, but near enough to drive to restaurants and other activities.
And second, Whitestown has become more vocal about its acceptance of all kinds of people, he said. A gay couple moved in across the street from Markle-Mackowiak because they heard about Whitestown’s Human Relations Ordinance, which established the commission and emphasized the community’s devotion to diversity and inclusivity.
“For a long time Whitestown battled the perception that it’s a racist town,” Markle-Mackowiak said. “Just because our name is Whitestown doesn’t mean we are.”
Markle-Mackowiak, who is attending law school, said that he’s defended the town to his classmates.
“We’re actually a lot more open and diverse than you think we are,” he said that he’s explained to people. “That’s going to continue to drive people here.”
The Human Relations Commission has become a driving force for promoting inclusion in Whitestown. On Wednesday, the Town Council passed a resolution drafted by the commission that will allow fireworks displays during the Hindu festival of Diwali and on Chinese New Year.
Markle-Mackowiak said that Whitestown’s growth and the influx of diverse people and families is not a fluke.
“I would say the landscape is definitely going to change … There’s a lot of young entrepreneurs moving here that I think will completely change Boone County, not just Whitestown,” he said. “We’re going to continue to evolve.”