We’re going to need to all hands on deck for the upcoming U.S. Census. This has nothing to do with the partisan flap about the undocumented immigrant question. The 2020 Census is going to be critically important for Stillwater and the greater Payne County area. It’s important for the entire state just to make sure we get our intended representation in Washington, but there’s a reason for us to narrow our focus.

Stillwater’s population, for the first time in history, is now estimated at just over 50,000. That isn’t official. After 2020, it will be official, but that count could be marred by low participation.

Why is 50,000 important? It is unofficially a threshold for many in the economic development field, including where businesses decide to expand and locate. It’s also a new level for Community Development Block Grants. We’re possibly looking at more dollars from the private sector and the federal government.

Another wrinkle is whether that 50,000 mark would include active responses by all the Oklahoma State students. An onus will also be on the college to market the census to its residents, but we’ll all play a part if that means volunteering or just raising awareness.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are six factors that could potentially impact success of an accurate count: Constrained fiscal environment; Rapidly changing use of technology; Information explosion; Distrust in government; Declining response rates; Increasingly diverse population. Some of these things are out of are control. Others, not so much.

For instance, the bureau writes that response rates “surveys and censuses in general, have declined as citizens are overloaded with requests for information and become increasingly concerned about sharing information.”

We have trust issues. We juggle, if we’re smart, about a dozen passcodes between work and home. We still get junk mail. We’re constantly threatened with the latest scam. It’s unfair, but we have to have some resolve in this matter.

An accurate count for the 2020 Census is going to be important, and it isn’t too early to mobilize.

Consider joining the Complete Count Committee at stillwater.org/page/completecount. If that fills up, ask whatever ever club or group you’re in what they are planning.