The Man Behind The ‘It’ City’s Most Popular Number: 1 Million


Martin Holdrich at his office, Woods and Poole, located in Washington, DC.

Martin Holdrich at his office, Woods and Poole, located in Washington, DC.

You’ll hear the number from the mayor and from business groups; everyone cites the number as proof that Nashville is booming. Call it the ‘it’ city’s ‘it’ number. But where did it come from? One economist in Washington, D.C. who crunches population numbers for a living.

Send that economist, Martin Holdrich, a check for $350 and he’ll ship you data on CD-ROM about every county in Tennessee.

“Maybe we should raise those prices sometime. Yeah, it’s very affordable.”

In his small second-floor office in Washington, D.C., Holdrich works from a big wooden desk that was once his father’s. That’s where he drills down on numbers for the more than 3,000 counties in the country. He’s been doing it since the ‘80s, and he’s become go-to guy for tracking how people move from city to city.

“Right now I’m just looking in a book, actually. Sometimes it’s quicker. For 2035, the total forecast for Nashville is 2 million – excuse me, let me start over again: It’s 2,598,510.”

So basically a million more people than Middle Tennessee has now. Holdrich came up with that figure the same way he comes up with projections for every city in the country. He looks at, say, how many people moved to Murfreesboro in past couple decade, and then also how many open jobs they have (since people follow jobs). He then spits out a number.

I asked Holdrich if he had any inkling about how popular his number has become in Nashville:

Allyn: Now I just Googled. 1 million. 2035. And Nashville. And I’m left with 2.6 million results. How does it feel to be the author of the most popular number in Nashville?

Holdrich: Well until you called today I had no idea about that.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 7

To put the one million number in perspective, it includes Nashville and 13 other counties. The most dramatic growth is expected to be outside of Nashville: Williamson County is set to double its population;  Rutherford County is poised to be the same size as Nashville is now in two decades.

And though adding a million more residents to a region might seem like a dramatic influx, Holdrich says that, compared to the area’s population growth in the 1990s, it’s actually a bit of a slowdown.

Holdrich -the person who came up with the million-person number–says it’s  important to keep in mind that the figure is actually a pretty squishy estimate.

“Well, what I can guarantee is it won’t be exactly that: Because the future is going to be different than what we’re anticipating.”

Planning officials like to say that in 2035 Middle Tennessee will be larger than the Denver area is today. But by the estimates, Denver will by then be about the size of Phoenix.

Please keep your community civil. Comments will be moderated prior to posting, and Nashville Public Radio reserves the right to approve them at its discretion. Comments containing links promoting goods, services - even noble organizations - will not be published. Your comments may include external links, but all comments with links will be delayed as they are reviewed. Comments containing profanity will be rejected.