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'The population statistics that emerge from Portland State University each year have a way of producing dissatisfaction.

'If growth is too fast from year to year, Oregonians worry about overcrowding, soaring home prices and traffic gridlock. But when population growth slows, as it has in the past two years, people fear the economic impact. The housing market could soften. Retail development could taper off. Oregon could lose the economic stimulus that accompanies in-migration.

'So allow us to be the first to say that the most recent numbers produced by the Population Research Center at Portland State University don't look all that bad. Yes, growth in East Multnomah County is less robust than it was in the 1990s. But this area is still attracting new residents Ñ and that's quite a feat considering the plant closings and economic turmoil of 2001 and 2002.

'Nevertheless, these initial estimates tell a mostly positive story. People continue to move (here) for quality of life and economic opportunity. As the economy warms up, this region once again could be confronted with the problem of overcharged population growth. In the meantime, though, a steady trickle of newcomers is much preferable to out-migration and economic decline.'

Ñ From a Dec. 6 editorial published in the Gresham Outlook