The 2000 census shows El Centro with a population of 37,835. In 1990 the population was 32,989, and in 1980 it was 23,996.
The federal government defines an MSA as "one city with 50,000 or more inhabitants, or a Census Bureau-defined urbanized area (of at least 50,000 inhabitants) and a total metropolitan population of at least 100,000 (75,000 in New England)."
Salem said reaching the threshold population and the benefits it provides can be like the proverbial chicken and the egg; that is, people will move to the city if there were more businesses, and more businesses would locate in the city if there were more people.
Salem was asked if the city of El Centro would consider including the population of the city of Imperial in its total in order to reach the threshold.
"That was the logic behind (our efforts) but still it doesn't reach the 50,000 needed," he said, adding city officials were hoping the adjacent county areas — with about 550 housing units — and Imperial would put the area over the top, but they did not.
"What can you do?" Salem asked.
Salem said if the city reaches the threshold between official census counts, the city can pay to have a special census conducted.
He said it was unfortunate the city did not reach the required threshold, and that 2000 population figures were disappointing throughout the Valley. He said the accuracy of the census numbers is still being looked into.
"We were hoping for 40,000 at least, and that didn't happen," Salem said.
For 2000, the city of Imperial had 7,560 people, and for 1990, 4,224.
Staff Writer Rudy Yniguez can be reached at 337-3440.