Greater Chattanooga area’s population expected to surge by hundreds of thousands by 2055

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Catoosa County, Ga., is projected to more than double in population by 2055 and grow from about 64,000 residents now to 140,000 then — an increase of 119 percent.

The county on Interstate 75 south of Chattanooga that’s largely a bedroom community is expected to see the biggest percentage bump in population over the next 40 years in the 16-county, tri-state region of Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.

It’s not alone, though. Meigs County, Tenn., is supposed to have twice as many residents in 2055, and population growth of more than 60 percent is anticipated in DeKalb County, Ala.; Dade County, Ga.; and Sequatchie County, Tenn.

Hamilton County is projected to see the most new residents — 98,000 — though that’s only a 29 percent increase because the county now has some 337,000 residents, the most in the region.

Overall, the 16-county region should grow by about 400,000 residents, from about 1 million now to 1.4 million.

That’s according to Thrive 2055, a private-public effort aimed at helping area officials deal with growth by raising awareness and getting officials and residents to talk about issues across county and state lines.

Meigs County

Mayor Garland Lankford thinks Thrive 2055’s growth projections are on the money for the county he’s called home his entire 69 years.

“In 40 years, it will be double, easy,” Lankford said of Meigs’ population of about 12,000 residents. “There’s a possibility of doing that in the next 10 years.”

Retirees and people who telecommute to work are drawn north of Chattanooga, Lankford said, to Meigs’ laid-back lifestyle and forested hills alongside the Tennessee River.

“The Chattanooga umbrella is extending itself out unbelievably,” he said.