While attending a meeting in the Shoals on another matter last week, Kenneth Boswell took a moment to make a plea to the public to make sure they are counted in the 2020 U.S. Census.

"For those of you who don't understand the impact of the census, it impacts you by $1,600 a year," said Boswell, director of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. "It impacts you that we stand to lose a member of Congress.

"This census is probably one of the most important censuses we've had in a long time."

Boswell and many local and state officials are taking any opportunity they can to promote awareness of the census.

The $1,600 Boswell referred to represents the fact that Alabama receives approximately $1,600 in federal funds for every Alabama resident who is counted in the census.

The state also could lose a U.S. House seat if it does not have the population to warrant the state's existing seven congressional districts.

Boswell said the state of Alabama is having a census roll out event on April 4 in Montgomery to help promote it.

The city of Florence is so serious about the upcoming census the City Council approved an $18,000 contract in February with the Phipps Agency to market the census to residents.

According to the contract, Phipps will create a logo and tagline, produce short social media videos, including one in Spanish, create a florence2020census.org website and create billboards, banners and materials in connection with the census.

"We're going to do it in a couple of languages," Mayor Steve Holt said. "We make sure everyone understands this is not about prying into someone's private life. This is a serious head count. In the state of Alabama this is important because we have a House seat at risk if we don't show growth."

A report published this year by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama states the 2010 Census lists the population of the Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area at 147,137. The bureau's 2015 estimated census places it at 147,099.

The Shoals metro area is comprised of Colbert and Lauderdale counties.

Florence is the largest city, at 39,852 residents, according to the bureau's 2017 estimate, the PARCA report states. It lists the population of Muscle Shoals at 14,022, while Sheffield's is 8,930 and Tuscumbia's is 8,398.

Holt said industries, restaurant chains and other businesses pay close attention to populations and population trends when considering locating a business in a community.

"Everybody lives off databases today," he said.

An accurate count also is needed for accurate planning, Holt said. He said, for example, if Florence's population is closer to 50,000 than 40,000 because residents are being under-counted, that would mean city officials have been making plans based on 10,000 fewer people.

"It has everything to do with our long-range planning, in terms of aspects such as traffic growth and utility growth," he said. "It just throws everything off."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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