St. Lawrence County sees population loss

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 3:22 PM EDT
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - The St. Lawrence County population is shrinking. Its only city and some of its largest villages are among the biggest losers - with one notable exception.

People continue to move out in Ogdensburg, Gouverneur and Massena. But in Canton, it looks like people are moving in. That’s according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

“Census numbers are very important when it comes to any number of things, including state aid, federal aid. Those Census numbers drive a lot of different things,” said Michael Dalton, Canton village mayor.

Canton gained 841 residents between 2010 and 2020.

The county’s other big population centers lost people. In Ogdensburg, the mayor feels cutting taxes and a rise in home values can turn things around.

“The city will grow. The city is going to grow in the future,” said Michael Skelly, Ogdensburg mayor.

St. Lawrence County lost 3,439 residents, about a 3 percent decline. It’s for the same reason other places lose people.

“Population follows jobs,” said John Tenbusch, St. Lawrence County Planning.

Massena is still feeling the aftershocks of GM leaving. Alcoa there has downsized. Ogdensburg is no longer a manufacturing hub.

It’s important to remember that the 2020 Census was conducted in the midst of a pandemic. So there are some caveats to the St. Lawrence County numbers.

On-campus living dropped during the pandemic. Also, SUNY Potsdam sent all students home for good at spring break. That could at least partially explain the big population drop in Potsdam.

“We’re pretty sure that COVID skewed results in a number of communities. We’re not entirely sure how yet,” said Tenbusch

COVID-19 may also have caused Amish to be undercounted. The county was not able to do its usual face-to-face information campaign with that community because of the pandemic.

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