By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 9, 2011; 10:51 PM
Anne Arundel County's center of gravity has shifted decidedly west over the past decade, a population boom driven largely by the growth of intelligence and cybersecurity agencies at Fort Meade that is likely to continue for years to come, according to census data released Wednesday.
The county's population topped the half-million mark for the first time. The bulk of the growth was largely centered in communities clustered in the west and northwest. Crofton, Gambrills, Severn and Maryland City showed double-digit increases. Odenton posted the biggest gain with a jump of 42 percent.
The availability of open land, a proliferation of office parks, and the swelling ranks at Fort Meade and the National Security Agency have spawned thousands of new houses. And the coming of slot machines at Anne Arundel Mills mall and the continued growth of Fort Meade through the Base Realignment and Closure process will pose rising traffic challenges .
"The bulk of [BRAC-related growth] is not even going to hit until the end of next year," said County Executive John R. Leopold (R).
Demographically, Anne Arundel has not experienced the racial and ethnic transformation happening in neighboring jurisdictions, although minority numbers grew in all categories.
The percentage of whites dipped from 80 to 72 percent, while the percentage of blacks grew from 13 to 15 percent. Hispanics more than doubled in the past decade, accounting for 6 percent of residents. Asians now make up more than 3 percent of the population.
"The diversity of Anne Arundel County is definitely increasing, but it's still [predominantly] white with blacks in a very distant second place," said Dan Nataf, head of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community of College.